New Mexico is the state with the highest percentage of Latino residents (47%), and state law requires universities to admit qualifying students who are not U.S. citizens.
Senate Bill 582, which became law in 2005, prevents colleges and universities from denying students admission based on their immigration status. In addition, state-funded financial aid is awarded to all qualifying students without proof of citizenship.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, New Mexico has 15,000 DACA students (see accompanying link on DACA) 35% with limited English proficiency, 54% living below 100% of the poverty level. In 2008, New Mexico Voices for Children issued a report entitled “Immigrants and the New Mexico Economy: Working Hard for Low Wages.” The report concluded that immigrants “make a very significant contribution to the New Mexico economy while at the same time they have a very small impact on national safety-net programs.”
Recently, in a nationally broadcasted interview on Fox News, Santa Fe mayor Javier Gonzales explained the city’s commitment to maintaining a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, even if six million dollars of federal funding could be denied as a result. Gonzales expressed hope that the incoming administration would view the issue not only in terms of human rights but also in terms of sanctuary city dependence upon skilled labor provided by immigrants trapped by a “broken” federal immigration policy.
Likewise, the Santa Fe Community College Governing Board recently confirmed their commitment to immigrant students by declaring SFCC a sanctuary campus, which means denying access to information on students’ immigration status and prohibiting immigration authorities from enforcing immigration policies on campus unless a warrant has been obtained or in case of emergency.
Western New Mexico University (WNMU) recruits DACA students who self-report from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and El Paso, Texas, allowing out-of-state applicants to obtain a limited number of waivers to secure in-state tuition rates.
According to a recent article in the New Mexico Daily Lobo, Bob Frank, University of New Mexico President, asked university lawyers to explore the legality of sanctuary status after receiving a letter with over nine hundred signatures from across the campus requesting special protection for undocumented immigrants. President Frank was one of 400 university presidents to sign a letter of support for the continuance of DACA (Sanchez, “Petition Seeks To Make UNM A Sanctuary Campus,” Nov. 23, 2016).
In early December, New Mexico State University President Garrey Carruthers sent a memo to campus employees explaining NMSU would not take sides in the issue or deny immigration officers campus entry because to do so could cause the loss of federal funding. Carruthers pointed to existing state law, including admission without proof of citizenship, DACA student access to in-state tuition and financial aid, and protection of all student records without court order.
Significance for Language Arts:
Sanctuary status allows qualifying DACA students to maintain access to education so they may improve English literacy skillswhile living and working in New Mexico.