Dear Hispanic Scholarship Fund,
The Association of Raza Educators (A.R.E.) applauds your efforts at providing scholarships to Hispanic students across the country. We recognize the pre-eminent role the Hispanic Scholarship Fund plays as one of the major funding sources available to students seeking higher education in the Hispanic community. As educators, we share in your dream of "doubl[ing] the rate of Hispanics earning a college degree" and by means of various community-based efforts, we also seek to ensure that dream is realized. Unfortunately, many otherwise qualified students, through no fault of their own, are currently excluded from your scholarship fund by virtue of their citizenship status. The Association of Raza Educators implores you: open your scholarships to all students of Hispanic descent regardless of citizenship.
There are an estimated 65,000 undocumented students that graduate from U.S. high schools each year, the bulk of whom have lived in the country for more than five years and are of Hispanic descent. Federal funds are denied to them, as are the majority of private scholarships. Moreover, under your current application requirements, these Hispanic students, despite being in desperate need of funding, are ineligible for your scholarships. Undocumented students are, however, permitted to attend colleges and universities and are doing so in increasing numbers. Usually they support themselves by working long hours in low-wage industries, demonstrating the very same hard work ethic and determination to succeed that has been a source of pride to Hispanics for generations.
In spite of such formidable barriers and numerous difficulties, we have observed in our own classrooms that many of our brightest and most hardworking students come from the ranks of the undocumented. Under current conditions, namely increasing animosity toward the Hispanic immigrant community in general, and a paucity of any source of funding for higher education for which such students may qualify in particular, denial of private scholarships such as those provided by HSF, is paramount to denial of higher education and the benefits that such education brings to those fortunate enough to pursue and achieve it. While we recognize that it may be legal to deny noncitizens access to such scholarships, exclusion of these students is not only morally objectionable but harmful to the Hispanic and American community as well.
Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, continue to comprise a significant percentage of the Hispanic community in this country. As one of the leading organizations serving Hispanics, HSF cannot ignore the pivotal issue of immigration and its impact on Hispanic families and students. The federal government has not passed comprehensive immigration reform for over a decade. The process of naturalization has only become more onerous with current waiting periods lasting longer than 15 years for families already in process. In thousands of Hispanic homes across the country, families are split across citizenship lines where husbands and wives, parents and children, even brothers and sisters, may fall on either side. Recent immigration debates highlight the grim reality that passage of a more humane immigration policy is a remote possibility. While local and national politicians fail to resolve myriad immigration problems, tens of thousands of Hispanic youth, educated and living in this country, are falling through the cracks.