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Residency does not equal citizenship.

June 22, 2017

Much ado is being made about the California University Board of Regents call to cap non-resident student populations at 18%., thus allowing 82% of the student population to take advantage of lower tuition costs.

If that was all there was to it, the policy, known as Policy 2109, would actually be a good thing.  After all, state-funded universities should cater to in-state students.

Where the flap occurs is in the specific exemption of persons in the country illegally, making them exempt from the cap.

Caught in the middle, again, are the so-called dreamers. Many, but not all, were brought here as small children and had no say in where they wound up living.

Technically and legally many of these people are still residents of whatever country they came from originally, and in theory should be subject to the nonresident caps.

Hard right conservatives notwithstanding, this is a problem that needs solving, but this policy of exemption from existing law isn’t the answer.

As a matter of actual practice, the Board of Regents is equating physical location, i.e. residency, with citizenship.

In most cases, legal residency is defined in part by your eligibility to vote in state and national elections. That right presumes and sometimes requires legal status as a native-born or naturalized citizen.

Thus, children of military families for instance, who have been stationed in California for three years or more, but maintain a legal voting address in another state are not considered residents  of the state for voting purposes, even though they may have purchased a home or made other moves that show they have an attachment to the state where they physically reside.

If press reports and anecdotal evidence have any validity, California has already adopted a completely different metric even for that basic requirement.

For all practical purposes if you live there long enough, you have the same rights as any legally defined citizen. That has an impact not just on benefits related to legal status, but on the whole framework of laws and enforcement of laws within the state.

If it was as easy as declaring that all people brought to this country by their parents could have limited duration and conditional legal resident status, the chances are that if put to vote (and many argue that it should be) not many  would deny that specific group at least a shot at legitimacy.

The problem is, once you turn 18, you are presumed to have free agency.

The obvious solution for the dreamers at present is to register with immigration and begin the process of becoming naturalized citizens. Even though President Trump’s ramped up deportation emphasis exempts them, that’s hard to do if you know that your still-illegal parents might be subject to deportation because you stepped out of the shadows.

Not all dreamers were smuggled in by their parents. Sometimes it was a older sibling or other relative, or even a coyote paid to funnel children in as sex slaves, etc. Short of producing the parents and verifying parentage via DNA, the whole question gets very sticky, very quickly.

Still, as long as the dreamers exist, granting them all the privileges but none of the responsibilities that go with being a citizen or legal resident is not the answer.

While California may think it is being compassionate, in reality all the state is doing is compounding the problem. What are these college students to do once they graduate? Where can they work that won’t require proof of legal residence status?

The answer is, exactly where they can work now, and they don’t need a college diploma to do that. In the meantime, someone that can make use of the education may be denied a chance to obtain it.

The law is the law. The answer is to change the law, not ignore it.

President Trump has signaled that he sees the problem and is open to pursuing a solution. For that he was trashed by both sides of the aisle. That’s hardly the way to enter into thoughtful discourse, especially with this President.

Given the obdurate and short-sighted bi-coastal “resist” movement, it’s unlikely there will be constructive progress any time soon.

That being the case, it would behoove California taxpayers to question how the state uses their tax dollars.

Then there is the question of so-called “private” money..

For instance, how far toward a solution would all the California money going to support Democrats in losing elections outside of the state, take the state toward real progress?

It’s your money Californians, but it seems as though you could spend it more wisely.


From → op-ed

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