by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Fabio Rojas writes for the Martin Center in support of admitting illegal immigrants to American college campuses.
[C]onservative social though often relies on the idea of personal responsibility, as Dennis Prager argued. People should be judged on their behavior, not the behavior of others. To exclude students from colleges because of a legal violation by their parents directly contradicts this central idea. If a student attends school, participates, and masters the material, then they should be appropriately rewarded. If conservatives oppose affirmative action because it rewards applicants whose credentials fall below a school’s standards, they should also support undocumented students who meet and surpass the school’s criteria for admission and financial support. To do otherwise is a rejection of meritocratic norms.
The exclusion of undocumented students also runs afoul of our most cherished legal traditions. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” If one were to take the text in its original meaning, it would certainly imply that rules and regulations that prohibit people from obtaining an education because of a non-criminal procedural violation are not valid. …
… Perhaps the most important reason to include undocumented students in higher education is Burkean. A key tenet of Burke’s philosophy in Reflections on the Revolution in France, which motivates many modern conservatives, is that one should resist radical social change. Instead, we should understand that society is an organic entity, with traditions that represent accumulated knowledge and wisdom.
Higher education is clearly one such institution and it has built up knowledge through the centuries. Universities have realized that they maintain their vitality by accepting a wide range of students, not just from their own region, but from the world. This range may include those students who have spent their lives abroad, as well as those whose parents may have brought them to our country. Native born and foreign born, including the undocumented, can all be contributors.