Letter to N.J. Congressional Delegation on Immigration Reform

On February 21, 2013, Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi sent the following letter to the 14 members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation:

I am writing to underscore the importance of comprehensive immigration reform to our nation and our system of higher education, and to encourage your engagement in the development of bipartisan and balanced reforms to our national immigration policies.

I am heartened by recent announcements of what appears to be a genuine bipartisan commitment to comprehensive immigration reform.  As described, the program would include a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented aliens residing in the United States, improvements to our guest worker program, and enhanced border control and security.   With respect to higher education, the proposal would expand the ability of the nation to retain Ph.D.s in STEM fields and include provisions that would address the plight of students who, as children of undocumented persons, were raised and educated here but cannot affordably finance a higher education because of a lack of access to federal loan and work-study programs.

All of these concepts, which have been embraced by Senators Durbin, Graham, McCain, Menendez, Schumer and Rubio, could work together to help to strengthen our national economic foundation by helping to eliminate the “shadow economy” that contributes to depressed wages and uncollected state and federal income tax revenues and payments to Social Security, Medicare and other programs.

Expanding the legitimate workforce and enhancing state and federal revenues is a goal that all Americans can support.

It is also important to recognize that the current immigration system discourages investment in human capital by making higher education financially impossible for the children of undocumented residents.  These children comprise a growing segment of our future workforce and we must adopt policies that encourage the full development of their intellectual capacity and the breadth of their skill base.

Under current policies it is impossible for these young people to pursue the federal loans and work-study programs that help make a higher education affordable.  As a result, many gifted young people, who would otherwise seek a higher education that would provide them with the essential tools to become vibrant members of the 21st century workforce, are relegated to a stagnant future.

This lack of access cancels out the billions of public dollars invested in the K-12 education of these young people and dramatically undermines the potential of these young people and the communities in which they reside.

Rutgers University has voiced its strong support for the DREAM Act and remains committed
to its enactment as a part of comprehensive federal immigration reform.  As a large public research university we are keenly aware of how the provisions of the DREAM Act would strengthen our student body, contribute to the diversity and competitiveness of the university and strengthen our state’s economy.

The decades-long debate over immigration reform has helped us all understand the depth and complexities of the issue.  It has forced us all to take a meaningful look at the social, educational and economic consequences of the current system for our communities, our states and our nation.

The immigration debate has sometimes resulted in policies at state and local levels that, with all good intentions, have been a distraction from the comprehensive reform that is required.  Indeed, piecemeal actions at state and local levels cannot adequately provide a pathway to citizenship nor can they address the need for access to federal loans and other programs. 

I am convinced that comprehensive federal immigration reform is essential, and, as I noted earlier, I am enormously encouraged by the bipartisan commitment to genuine comprehensive reform.

I want to thank you for your consideration of my viewpoint, and I am at your disposal should you have any questions or concerns.


Robert L. Barchi