Utah Higher Ed Presidents Call On Lawmakers to Pass Immigration Reform

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The presidents of eight Utah colleges and universities, including the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Weber State University, Utah State University, Southern Utah University, Westminster College, Snow College, Dixie State University,  sent a letter to Utah’s congressional delegation on Thursday, urging the Beehive State’s delegation to act on comprehensive immigration reform.

“I join my colleagues in calling for the passage of immigration reform legislation this year.  The system is long overdue for significant change,” said  Charles A. Wight, President of Weber State University in the letter addressed to Congressman Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart, Jason Chaffetz and Jim Matheson.  “[We must] pass the DREAM Act so that children who have grown up in America have an opportunity to become citizens and have an incentive to pursue higher education.”

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or ‘DREAM’ Act, would allow the children of illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for at least five years, graduated from high school, and avoided trouble with the law, to be granted temporary residency in the country and obtain a college degree or serve in the military. After that time, the young adults can apply for permanent residency and be placed on a path to citizenship.  Utah’s Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican), along with Ilinois Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat), introduced the DREAM Act a month before the September 11th attacks in 2001—although in the last few years Hatch has attempted to distance himself from his legislation.

“These foreign-born students,” the letter continues, “are not taking seats from Utah residents, or even American students.  We quite simply cannot find enough students from Utah or other states who are interested in our STEM programs to meet the demands of businesses in the area.”

STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, is shorthand for the core education fields the state formally decided to focus on with the passage of the highly popular HB 139 during the past legislative session. The STEM Action Center works to improve the educations in K-12 schools to prepare students for college.

“Our educational institutions thrive when all of Utah’s industries thrive and research shows that passing immigration reform will benefit all sectors of the state’s economy.”

The letter’s statement is supported by a recent study from Duke University, which found for every thousand immigrants living in the country, forty six manufacturing jobs (not including jobs in other fields) are created or preserved that would otherwise not exist.

The letter concludes with a warning that “Utah cannot afford to wait to fix our immigration system. We ask you to work together to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan solution because all parts of our economy…need it.”

71 percent of Utah voters support the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, while 90 percent believe it is important we fix our immigration system this year.

Read the full letter below.

Utah University Presidents Immigration Letter 9-19-2013



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