RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Students today called on North Carolina lawmakers to make college affordable for the children of farmworkers, some of whom are undocumented citizens.
Twenty-four youth advocates with Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) went door-to-door at the General Assembly to speak with their legislators.
Organizers – many who live in the state’s rural counties – say these students and their families live and work in North Carolina, but are still charged out-of-state tuition.
The activists believe that the practice prices kids out of college, particularly since many of these families make low wages.
One 18-year-old from Bladen County says the conversation about students like her isn’t progressive.
Maria Gonzalez told CBS North Carolina that she’s protected by the Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) rule, an Obama administration policy. However, Gonzalez says that the policy hasn’t made her access to higher education an easy process.
“Well, it’s definitely painful to hear and heartbreaking,” Gonzalez said of the recent rhetoric surrounding immigration. “These are students who come here with a purpose. They come with a dream just like everyone else and I believe we should all have the chance to pursue it no matter what.”
SAF program director Nadeen Bir has worked on the issue for 10 years and she hopes this type of advocacy will put a human perspective to the issues surrounding these families.
“I can tell these stories, but I don’t think it matters as much until they actually hear from a student who’s actually going through this,” Bir said. “We have a lot of students that want an education and they’re finding barriers when they have to pay out-of-state tuition.”
Bir is hopeful that Wednesday’s discussion with lawmakers will lead to the implementation of policy changes.
SAF also discussed improving working conditions on farms.