Eight Arkansas higher education leaders Friday released a letter to members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation calling on them to pass immigration reform.
The letter was signed by Dr. Joel Anderson, chancellor, University of Arkansas – Little Rock; Dr. Paul Beran; chancellor, University of Arkansas – Fort Smith; Dr. Sally Carder, president, National Park Community College; Dr. Steve Cole, chancellor, Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas; Dr. Glen Fenter, president, Mid-South Community College; Dr. Margaret Ellibee, president, Pulaski Technology College; Dr. Jack Lassiter, chancellor, University of Arkansas – Monticello; and Skip Rutherford, dean, University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
The letter was initiated by the Partnership for a New American Economy, according to Ben Thielemier with the Markham Group, a Little Rock public relations firm working with the national effort. All the state’s public and private colleges and universities were approached.
The letter calls on Congress to pass comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform but stops short of calling for specific policy proposals. However, the presidents clearly support increasing immigration in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The letter says that in 2009, 46 percent of students earning master’s or doctoral degrees in STEM fields at Arkansas’ research-intensive universities were temporary residents. More than half of students earning engineering PhDs were not U.S. citizens. Foreign-born STEM advanced degree holders in Arkansas increased 303 percent between 2000 and 2010, the letter states.
The educational leaders also indicate their preference for creating a pathway to citizenship and for passage of a DREAM Act so the children of undocumented immigrants could earn their citizenship.