Star student’s dreams denied by immigration law

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(CNN) — A senior class president with a 4.2 grade-point average, who’s in the top 5% of her class and has devoted her time outside the classroom to mentoring young students and anti-bullying efforts, is now watching her college dreams dissolve.

“Everyone told me, ‘Do good in school, and you’ll have so many opportunities,’ and I believed them.” But Karla Fernandez has learned that her opportunities are significantly more limited than her classmates because her parents entered the United States illegally from Mexico when Karla was 3 years old.

The standout student at Indianapolis’ Ben Davis High School, who one former teacher told the Indianapolis Star “has done everything right … has made all the right choices,” was accepted to Ball State University in January. But under Indiana law, Fernandez does not qualify for in-state tuition there or at any other of the state’s public colleges or universities because of her legal status.

If Fernandez can’t come up with Ball State’s $33,000 out-of-state four-year tuition, she will be denied that one promised opportunity she worked to earn and wants most of all. By comparison, in-state tuition at Ball State is roughly $17,000 per year.

As the child of illegal immigrants, Fernandez is also not eligible for most of the scholarships or other financial aid services available to other college students.

With her options limited and the bipartisan federal DREAM Act — which would provide greater education opportunities for approximately 65,000 undocumented students like Karla who entered the United States as children — unlikely to advance through political gridlock in Congress anytime soon, Fernandez has launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover the out-of-state tuition.

“Please see this as an investment,” the 18-year-old explains on her Go Fund Me page, where she has raised more than $16,000 toward her goal of $25,000. “Invest in my education because I know that one day I’ll be able to do great things with people not only in my community but nationwide.”

The immigration laws standing in Fernandez’s way were established as a deterrent against people entering America illegally. However, there is some question as to whether Fernandez should be punished for her parents’ decision.

Jeffrey Butts doesn’t think so. The Wayne Township Schools superintendent told the Indianapolis Star’s Matthew Tully, who has reported extensively on Fernandez’s story, that he understands “people have some pretty deep-seated feelings about this topic. But I struggle with the idea of us penalizing our children because of something their parents did. Shouldn’t we be encouraging them to excel and become citizens?”

One Indianapolis Star reader, speaking for many of those who view Fernandez’s struggles differently, wrote to the paper that he finds it “appalling that those who ignore our laws by being here illegally are so vocal in using our laws when it is to their advantage.”

For her part, Fernandez isn’t too hung up on the politics of her situation; she just wants to go to college.

“I have always been put in tough situations and I have tried not to say ‘why me’, instead I say ‘try me,’ ” she writes on her fundraising site. “I know I will succeed but I need all the help I can get to accomplish this dream.”

By Jonathan Anker

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23 comments

    • Tim

      Ben, there is a solution. Have famlies go through the proper channels and immigrate into the US legaly. It would be nice if we could offer all that our once great country has to everyone…but we can’t. Lets take care of Americans first then decide how many immigrates we can support.

  • MG

    Thank your parents for breaking the law and creating these problems for you. As a US citizen and taxpayer, I resent what your parents have done and the costs that citizens are forced to bear for them.

  • Wiggl Wagon

    Her dreams are being denied by her criminal parents, not by the laws. Just think how much she could be doing to help her home country build a free and prosperous society.

    America should not be STEALING the best and the brightest from other countries.

  • Arlina Watkins

    If she has known her parents are illegal why doesnt she help them become legal!! Really this situation happens too often and I personally know some parents who went back to their home countries and applied to come back legally. It took time but they paid the money and did it correctly and now their children are here and legal and have been able to move forward with their dreams. Also if they go back cant she apply for foreign citizen status visa? Some have done that also.Dont be fooled into thinking shes stuck and a boohoo story for money is gonna help.

  • n_slash_a

    No mention that her parents are STILL in this country illegally. How did she get a driver’s license if was here illegally? How did she enroll in school if she is here illegally?

    Her parents are to blame, not he laws. They broke the law. They screwed their child. They decided to continue breaking the law for nearly two decades. They decided to deprive their country of an apparently very bright student. Why do they hate their country so much that they don’t want to contribute to its betterment?

    Blame the criminal, not the enforcer.

  • Bill

    But we DO pay for the sins of our parents. If our parents accrue massive debt and then die, are our assets not also on the line? Do creditors not then come after the children of those individuals? You bet they do. We can say how unfair it is, and this is an extremely unfortunate case of someone suffering because her parents did not do things the correct way. However, it is hardly the only example of how parent choices can have very detrimental effects on their children.

  • WhySoSerious

    Nobody said that she can’t attend college! She just doesn’t qualify for FREE money, Boo Hiss, get a job a pay your way through your local college like so many legal citizens have to!

  • Nikki

    I agree that she can get a job and attend college elsewhere, but i have to say to all of you saying this is her parent’s fault because they came illegally. I have to ask are you all native american? how did your ancestors get here?

  • MG

    And just where do you think Native Americans came from?
    Watch the History Channel sometime. They were all immigrants from Asia who crossed the Bering Land Bridge.

    Once we became a nation of laws, however, our Social Contract with our society required we give up the right to do what we want whenever we want. Instead, we gave up those rights in exchange for the protections and other advantages of Citizenship. We have laws allowing legal immigration. Everyone has or should have access to that information. You fill out the paperwork, you stand in line, and wait your turn. I have no sympathy for people who decide those laws don’t apply to them and cross our borders illegally. In my mind they are criminals. It doesn’t make much of a good impression when your very first action in this country is to break its laws. So screw you. You didn’t set much of an example for your children either, did you?

  • Tim

    What is she complaining about? She should be disapointed in her parents for breaking the law. She sounds like a very talented student but her parents gone through the proper channels she would be in great shape. Try sneaking into Mexico and then ask to be treated like a citizen. How do you think that will work for you?

  • MG

    “Star student’s dreams denied by immigration law” Hey FOX 4, is that your headline on this story? Or did you borrow it from CNN? A little prejudicial maybe? Think about this headline. “Bank robber’s dreams denied by robbery law” Whether it was her OWN or her parent’s unlawful actions, the fact remains, YOU DON’T REWARD BAD BEHAVIOR.

  • Sue

    She does not realize this now, but this is a blessing in disguise. By having to fund her education without Government Loans she will not Graduate with thousands of dollars of Debt.

    • MG

      But her parents did. Their actions are responsible for her predicament. She deserves ZERO special considerations. I’m certainly not writing her a check. I have my own kid to help through college.

      Had we closed the border decades ago, this would not be an issue today.