UI administration mum on immigration bill


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Despite a call for universities nationwide to endorse immigration reform, top administrators at the University of Iowa have not taken a position on the legislation that is garnering national attention.

Presidents and chancellors from a handful of U.S. colleges are urging passage of the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act — which would link citizenship for young illegal immigrants with attending U.S. colleges or military service — but UI President Sally Mason hasn't issued any public statements on the proposed law. UI spokesman Tom Moore said the university has not taken a position on the legislation, and he didn't offer any further comment about the bill.

Under the Democrat-sponsored Dream Act, high-school graduates who came to the country illegally before the age of 16 might qualify for legal residency or citizenship if they meet a handful of requirements, including military service or attending a U.S. college.

UI Chief Diversity Officer Georgina Dodge said the Dream Act is "a no-brainer" but said the law wouldn't necessarily have huge a effect on the UI.

"It's important to keep in mind that the Dream Act is going to affect a handful of people," she said. "It's not as though lots of people are banging on the door to get into college."

Higher-education officials elsewhere say they're uniquely qualified to endorse the bill because they have contact with the hundreds or thousands of illegals who are attending colleges around the country.

"I run into them every day, and I have to tell you these are some of the most impressive students you can ever meet," said Eduardo Padrón, the president of Miami Dade College. "These are students very committed to the future of the nation. We have invested in their high-school education, and it's an incredible talent that cannot be wasted."

Officials noted the law could be an economic boon as more immigrants start paying tuition and eventually get higher-paying jobs. However, opponents of the law point out granting illegals citizenship will allow them to eventually collect federal benefits, which could increase the deficit.

During a conference all with reporters last week, Padrón and administrators from University of California-Los Angeles and Regent University in Virginia called on other university presidents to endorse the Dream Act.

"I would say all of us who have had the chance to meet these students recognize the enormous resource they are," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block told The Daily Iowan. "It's critical for those of us who have had chances to meet with them to speak out."

White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz said the act is an "incredibly important piece of legislation," and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said it's "critical to our economic future."

However, the legislation could run into insurmountable barriers if it isn't passed before Republicans take control of the U.S. House at the beginning of next year. Iowa's Congressional delegation is expected to vote along party lines if the legislation comes to a vote, with U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, an outspoken opponent of the bill.

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