The Cluster calls for University System of Georgia to reform undocumented student policy

The opinion expressed in this piece may not reflect that of the faculty, staff and students of Mercer University, and does not reflect the opinion of every member of The Cluster staff.

Raymond Partolan’s story, which starts on page five, is inspiring. This is a young man who was brought to the United States by his parents. He was too young to make the decision on his own, and when the Partolans’ visas expired, he was also too young to make the decision to leave the U.S.

Raymond grew up as an undocumented immigrant, but that is not his fault.

He grew up in Macon, attended public school in Bibb County and has always been a contributing member to our community.

Yet, he did not feel welcome in his own hometown. He wasn’t sure that he would be able to go to college—an opportunity most of us take for granted.

However, he has made the most of his situation, and is now active in lobbying not only for immigration reform, but also for reform in the University System of Georgia’s (USG) policies which severely inhibit undocumented students from attending public universities in Georgia.

We support Raymond and his efforts, and strongly believe that he deserves to be a citizen of the U.S.

He should not be punished for a decision made by his parents. His parents should not be punished for doing the best they could in a difficult situation.

There should be a pathway to citizenship for people like Raymond, who were brought here as children and who grew up in the U.S. and want to be contributing members to our country.

Those same students should have easier access to Georgia’s public universities.

Even if undocumented students grew up in the U.S., they are denied in-state tuition in Georgia. They are also denied state scholarships and loans like the HOPE Scholarship.

Raymond grew up here just like the rest of us, so why should he be denied something that we take for granted?

The USG Board of Regents needs to change its policies. Students like Raymond, especially students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, should be granted in-state tuition and the opportunity to receive state scholarships and loans.

But even more, students like Raymond deserve to be citizens.

The DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for childhood arrivals like Raymond, was introduced in 2001. It still has not passed. Either the DREAM Act or something like it needs to pass, so that Raymond can have what he’s always wanted—citizenship in his home, the country he loves.

Immigration reform is not a faceless issue; it affects human beings like Raymond. It affects at least one of our fellow Mercerians.

Before you form an opinion about immigration reform, read the story on page five and think about people—your fellow humans and fellow Mercerians.