Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

State Immigration Rules Vex IU Students ; Brothers No Longer Qualify for In-State Tuition

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

State Immigration Rules Vex IU Students ; Brothers No Longer Qualify for In-State Tuition

Article excerpt

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Omar Gama hopes to one day be a bank manager or a CEO. His twin brother, Erick, wants to be an interior designer in Chicago. But, first, they need to graduate - a task, they said, that has become difficult after a 2011 Indiana law began requiring students to verify their citizenship. The law prevents students like the Gamas, who came from Mexico but have lived in Indiana since fifth grade, from paying in-state tuition.

"I know my parents pay taxes, so they are paying taxes toward IU, but we don't get to pay in-state tuition," Erick told The Herald-Times. "We have been here over half of our lifetime."

The brothers' struggle to complete their degrees highlights a gap between the reach of President Barack Obama's new immigration policy and what decisions are still left up to individual states like Indiana.

Under the new federal rules, which went into effect Aug. 15, the Gamas can now apply for two-year work permits. The program also prioritizes deporting dangerous criminals, while offering deferment to young immigrants who have no criminal record and who are in school or serving in the military. But whether an immigrant who can't prove citizenship can pay in-state tuition or get a driver's license are decisions still left up to the state.

The policy addresses two fears the Gamas said they have lived with most of their lives: being deported to a country they barely remember, and losing their chance at a good education.

On May 9, 2011, both of these fears became very real possibilities.

The brothers, along with three other students, were arrested after staging a short sit-in at Gov. Mitch Daniels' office in Indianapolis. Daniels was set to approve the new law requiring the citizenship verification.

"The whole idea was just to talk to Governor Daniels about our story and how signing the law would affect our lives and all the lives of undocumented students," Omar said. …

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