Presidents’ Alliance Coalition of 500+ Presidents Urge Passage of U.S. Citizenship Act
Posted: April 28, 2021
Posted: April 28, 2021
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Member of Congress:
On behalf of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, we write to express our full support of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in the Senate and Representative Linda Sánchez (D-CA) in the House, and urge you to cosponsor and vote in support of this vital legislation. With its comprehensive and long-awaited reforms, this act is a welcome and much needed step toward modernizing our nation’s immigration laws.
As leaders in higher education, we witness daily the tremendous contributions of immigrant, refugee, and international students and scholars to our campuses and communities. We are in strong support of the provisions that provide a path to citizenship for the long-term undocumented, protect Dreamers, allow states to invest in the education and workforce development of all their residents, and initiate sensible reforms to our nation’s visa and immigration laws. The U.S. Citizenship Act introduces a strong foundation for the humane, just, and fair immigration system our nation deserves. We highlight below some of the key provisions that impact higher education and comment on two provisions with suggestions we believe are worthy of further consideration. But our principal message today is to urge you to support this important legislation.
As a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings the voice and perspectives of college and university presidents to the discussion of immigration issues that impact higher education, our students, campuses, communities, and the nation. We work to inform and advance immigration policies and practices at the federal, state, and campus level that are consistent with our heritage as a nation of immigrants and the academic values of access, equity and the opportunity for all learners to rise as high as their talents will take them. The Alliance is composed of over 500 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, enrolling over five million students in 43 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
I. KEY PROVISIONS BENEFITING THE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMUNITY
II. PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING THE U.S. CITIZENSHIP ACT
The proposed bill lays an important and solid foundation for immigration reform and we strongly urge its passage. We also urge consideration of the following issues which are of particular importance to colleges and universities for the possible inclusion as amendments to the bill. First, Congress should remove bars to postsecondary benefits and licensure for qualified noncitizens, particularly those that fall under the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Second, Congress should include nondiscrimination provisions for higher education access and licensing on the basis of immigration status (similar to the employment nondiscrimination provisions of the bill, which we laud). Specifically, the bill should prevent immigration status as the basis for excluding graduates of U.S. high schools from admission, enrollment, grants, scholarships, or in-state tuition in pursuit of post-secondary education or from obtaining the state professional, commercial, and business licenses required to use that education.
Immigrant and international students, faculty, and staff are important and vital members of our educational and local communities, on and off campus. These students have the drive, talent and desire to serve our nation and make it stronger and more prosperous if we will only give them a chance. We urge you to support the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 and similar legislation that would give them that chance.
The time to act is now. We stand ready to work with you to achieve a modern, humane and just immigration system that meets the needs of students and families and advances our nation’s interests by providing durable solutions to long-standing immigration problems. For any questions regarding the Alliance and its work, please contact Jose Magaña-Salgado, our Director of Policy and Communications, at email@example.com.
 Presidents’ All. on Higher Educ. & Immigr. & New Am. Econ., Undocumented Students in Higher Education: How Many Students are in U.S. Colleges and Universities, and Who Are They? (2021), available at https://www.higheredimmigrationportal.org/research/undocumented-students-in-higher-education-updated-march-2021/.
 Jie Zong & Jeanne Batalova, Migr. Pol’y Inst., How Many Unauthorized Immigrants Graduate from U.S. High Schools Annually? (2019), available at https://www.higheredimmigrationportal.org/research/migration-policy-institute-fact-sheet-on-number-of-dreamers-graduating-from-high-school/.
 Basic Facts About In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrant Students, Nat’l Immigr. L. Ctr., https://www.nilc.org/issues/education/basic-facts-instate/ (last updated Mar. 15, 2021).
 Julia Gelatt, Explainer: How the U.S. Legal Immigration System Works, Migr. Pol’y Inst. (2019), https://www.migrationpolicy.org/content/explainer-how-us-legal-immigration-system-works.
 For a full list of our legislative priorities and suggested bill text, see Presidents’ All. on Higher Educ. & Immigr., Legislative Recommendations Regarding Immigrant Students, Higher Education Access, Federal Financial Aid, and Professional and Occupational Licensure (2021), available at https://www.presidentsalliance.org/legislative-recommendations-regarding-immigrant-students-higher-education-access-federal-financial-aid-and-professional-and-occupational-licensure/.
 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, H.R. 3734, 104th Cong. §§ 401–23 (1996).