It is generally accepted, socially and scientifically, that people are not completely at fault for their actions if they are not adults and that greater effort should be made to help them become contributing members of society.
This norm, however, seems to escape Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama issued a declaration of deferred action, which would grant lawful presence status to young immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children by their parents. The order would apply to immigrants brought here before they were 16 years old and would enable them to apply for jobs, join the military and attend colleges and universities.
Last week, in a move that follows Tea Party rhetoric, Brewer countered with an executive order that prohibits state agencies from providing state services to the immigrants that the order was meant to serve.
Because the universities are under the authority of the Arizona Board of Regents, a state agency, Brewer’s action applies to immigrants wishing to attend universities under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, legislation that seeks to allow immigrants brought to the United States as children to attend universities and join the military.
“I think everybody in Arizona (and) across the country has compassion for those children that have been brought here illegally by their parents,” Brewer said. “But it is not our responsibility.”
On the contrary, the Arizona Constitution says that the state does have a responsibility for students, stating, “The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students … and the instruction furnished shall be nearly as free as possible.”
The constitution does not mention students with legal or illegal status, nor does it say that students must be citizens in order to attend institutions of higher education. It just says “students.”
Additionally, Brewer’s order criminalizes immigrants even if they were minors when they arrived in the United States.
However, Arizona’s criminal code contains no law that makes an immigrant minor as culpable as an adult for violating immigration law. Under the criminal code’s responsibility clause, minors are only charged as adults if their crime was violent or if the offense is the third on record for the juvenile.
Additionally, the Obama administration has made it clear that it does not intend to deport immigrants who fall into this category. Therefore, there is no legal means to make an immigrant minor as guilty as an adult who violates immigration law.
Brewer’s order is just another misguided attempt to appeal to the right-wing hardliners that have controlled the U.S. House of Representatives and the Arizona State Legislature for the past two years.
By doing so, however, she has placed responsibility on those we consider least responsible for their own actions, much less the actions of others.
This action demonizes many who have known Arizona and the United States as their home their whole lives and want to continue to be active in our communities by contributing to the economy, by serving in the military or by attending colleges and universities.
Those who desire to improve our society, economically and socially, should voice opposition to Brewer’s executive order and advocate for higher education and other opportunities for the DREAMers. It is a step in the right direction.
— Andres Dominguez is a senior studying political science and journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.