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USA: Higher education reacts to new Arizona immigration law

On April 23, 2010, Arizona State Law S.B. 1070 was signed by the governor of that state, Jan Brewer. Immigration oversight is typically considered an exclusive function of the federal government in the United States. However, the new Arizona law enhances state-level activity in this area by requiring, under certain circumstances, “a reasonable attempt to be made [by local or state law enforcement officials]… to determine the immigration status of a person”.

The new law has provoked strong reactions across the country, not least in higher education circles. For example, the American Educational Research Association issued a press release during its annual conference on April 30—attended by some 13 000 participants from approximately 60 countries—stating that it “will no longer hold meetings or conferences in the state of Arizona until such time as this law is rescinded or AERA otherwise revisits the issue.” Another higher education group, ACPA-College Student Educators International, has announced that it will not convene a meeting it had scheduled in Tucson, Arizona in January 2011, and instead will select another suitable venue outside of the state of Arizona.

Meanwhile, University of Arizona (UA) president Robert Shelton issued a letter to the university community noting that an unspecified number of newly accepted students (all honors students), had decided to enrol elsewhere in direct reaction to the law. President Shelton also indicated that his institution had a special responsibility to “do everything possible to ensure that… [international] students continue to feel welcomed and respected, despite the unmistakably negative message that this bill sends to many of them.” Indeed, two Mexican universities have already reportedly cancelled their cooperative exchange agreements with the University of Arizona, affecting 14 students and 10 researchers from Mexico. Another Arizona university president, Michael Crow of Arizona State University, has been quoted as saying that 15-20 faculty applicants have pulled out of the hiring process and his institution has been contacted by a number of international constituents with questions and concerns about safety for foreign students in the state, all in response to the new legislation.

While the fall-out from S.B. 1070 for internationalisation in Arizona’s academic community does not appear to be massive or widespread, the highly charged situation provides a very clear example of the important (and complex) intersection between immigration policy considerations and internationalisation and innovation in higher education.

Arizona State Legislature American Educational Research Association ACPA The University of Arizona