Depriving the College Dream in South Carolina

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary It almost sounded like a replay of what happened in Florida. A South Carolina resident named Joel Licea wanted to go to the University of South Carolina. He was at the top of his class, an excellent athlete, and president of the student body at his high school. However, when he applied to the university, the university asked what the immigration status of his parents are. Even though Joel Licea was born and raised in the United States, the university only cared about his parents’ immigration status. When Licea refused to answer this question, the university stated that he could still go college, but that they would charge him out-of-state tuition.

To put it mildly Joel Licea was horribly shocked. Being a U.S. citizen, and born and raised in South Carolina, why should the university care what the immigration status of his parents are? When Licea applied to the College of Dartmouth, they gave him the same decision. There was no question that these two academic institutions were discriminating against Licea for being Latino. If these decisions stood, there was no way that Joel Licea could possibly pay out-of-state tuition, and that he could not possibly go to college. Despite being an American, Joel Licea was being classified as a second-class citizen, or not as a citizen at all.

Licea’s family called the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Law Center sent an official letter to the University of South Carolina stating that it was in violation of not only state law but in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Hence, the Law Center would file a lawsuit against the university. The university quickly reversed its decision and allowed Joel Licea to pay in-state tuition. I am happy that this story worked out. The real shock is the blatant discrimination that seems to be occurring even at academic institutions as well as on the state level. Last year, Florida’s law that did not allow the American-born children of the undocumented to pay in-state tuition was ruled unconstitutional. This precedent has helped to prevent other states from enacting similar laws. Let us hope that this practice will be brought to an end. All Americans deserve a level playing field.

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