Star student’s dreams denied by immigration law
(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