Alienated: Immigrant Rights, the Constitution, and Equality in America

By Victor C. Romero | Go to book overview

5
Hitting the Ceiling
The Right to a College Education

While one could certainly argue that the Constitution guarantees undocumented immigrants both Fourth Amendment protection and governmental aid, or that it conveys neither, I start from the premise that the Bill of Rights are generally regarded as “negative” rather than “positive” in nature—they protect people from unreasonable government intrusion into their lives, but they do not obligate the government to provide positive goods like food, clothing, and shelter to its citizenry.1 Thus, the Fourth Amendment (along with its constitutional brethren) might serve as a “floor” of rights—that which the government cannot take away. In contrast, government benefits such as welfare or tuition assistance, might form a “ceiling”—rights reserved to citizens or citizens-to-be only.

In the following chapter, I test the limits of this hypothetical ceiling by examining a growing problem in America today—the increasing number of undocumented persons who are college-eligible but cannot qualify for government financial aid because of their immigration status. In this post9/11 era of impoverished state budgets, federal concerns about national security, and increasing public ambivalence about immigration, can financial aid for postsecondary education be a viable constitutional or statutory right that can be claimed by undocumented immigrants?


The Problem: Producing Highly Educated Farmworkers

Carmen Medina is the Executive Director of the Adams County Delinquency Prevention Program, a state-sponsored initiative designed to attend to the needs of school-age children in south-central Pennsylvania. While perhaps best known as the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, Adams County is also an agricultural powerhouse, producing more apples and

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