The American Dream: Hundreds of Russellville City School students won’t be able to attend college in Alabama because of state law

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 8:27 PM CDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ala. (WAFF) - Alabama is one of three states with laws barring undocumented immigrants from attending public higher education.

However, these restrictions do not exist at the grade school level. This law is impacting students in Franklin County right now.

One student, in particular, has lived in Russellville since he was two years old. He graduated with honors and an advanced diploma this year.

“I want to be able to have a career and show people what I can do, what I’m made of. I want to show them that having someone like me in the United States, it’s not wrong because I can help make it better,” said a recent Russellville High School graduate.

What is your American dream?

For some, it may be to have a family or to earn a decent living. This young man wants to go to college and make a difference.

“I want to be an engineer. I want to make buildings better, make places look better, nicer homes,” he said.

Currently, that dream is not possible. That’s because of the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, an anti-illegal immigrant bill that was signed into law in 2011. The law prevents undocumented immigrants from attending college in Alabama.

“I was ready for college and then I can’t go,” he said.

He was supposed to be starting his freshman year of college, but a ruling by a federal judge in Texas on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program blocked his path and he’s not the only one.

“I’d like for that to be changed because for example half of my soccer team was in the same situation as me,” he said.

According to the 2020 U.S Census Data, Franklin County has the highest population of Latino and Hispanic people in the state.

53 percent of students enrolled in Russellville City School District are Hispanic or Latino. 23 percent are English language learners. About 500 students in the district are undocumented.

Superintendent Heath Grimes said the school system invests at least $130,000 in a Hispanic or Latino student’s education over the course of K-12.

“It’s not like anyone is asking for free education. They are just asking to be able to pay to go to school. It just seems like after you make $130,000 per child investment that you would want them to be able to carry that out. That you would want them to be able to have hire wage jobs and contribute to our economy and give back and that’s exactly what this young man is trying to do,” said Grimes.

Breaking down the data
Breaking down the data(WAFF)

There’s good news out of this story, the students family is able to afford to send him to a community college in east Mississippi so he’s not too far away from home, but for many other students like him, their dreams are still being deferred.

WAFF reached out to the state representative of this county to talk about this law and how it affects students there. We are still waiting to hear back.

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