Forum urges for students to join to fight H.B. 208

By Deborah Rafferty, Staff Writer

If the Utah Legislature were to pass House Bill 208, many undocumented students could be prevented from attaining higher education.

H.B. 208 would require undocumented students who receive in-state tuition to sign an affidavit promising they haven’t worked in the past year.

At a forum on immigration in Utah and the United States held Friday, Charles Kuck, national president of the American Immigrations Lawyers Association, discussed the need for minority groups to come together to help fight the bill.

“The University of Utah is doing everything possible to protect your ability to get an education,” said Octavio Villalpando, associate vice president for equity and diversity.

Kuck said people can make a difference by preparing and organizing coalitions and motivating them to move forward and promote change.

“We have to be early to the fight,” Kuck said. “We have to be prepared for the fight; become the group that speaks for all.”

However, many of the coalitions are lacking in numbers, he said.

Anti-immigration activists succeed because they band together with a common goal of keeping immigrants out of the country, Kuck said. They are organized and reach out to fellow anti-immigration groups to fight for what they believe.

Kuck said he believes that if the minority groups could work together on this issue, they could win the battle.

“Why aren’t Asians talking to Latinos?” Kuck asked. “Why aren’t the Latinos talking to the African-Americans? They all have passion. This is a civil rights issue. They need to make the United States the country they believe it to be.”

Kuck suggested these coalitions write letters and make phone calls to their local legislators telling them not to support the bill. The most important issue they should discuss with their legislators is how to better enforce immigration laws and have more incentives to come into the country legally, he said.

Many times, legislators want to help but don’t hear from the people that will be affected the most by the bill and believe that no one cares about the issue, Kuck said. Anti-immigration groups do contact legislators and their opinions are often heard.

Without any action from the minority groups, there is a real possibility that H.B. 208 will pass, he said.

Many members of the audience felt strongly about immigration and the proposed bill. Some came to the forum to learn more about the issue and support the cause.

“This is a very critical time,” said Melissa Aldape, a senior in anthropology and international relations. “The people who spoke were very qualified people who have a passion and are interested in a positive outcome.”

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Erik Daenitz

Charles Kuck, and immigration lawyer outlined a plan for immigration reform during his address Friday in the Union Theater. Kuck encouraged immigration coalitions to communicate their positions to their state congressman.