OPINION: Democrats' 'free' community college plan puts illegal immigrants ahead of blue-collar Americans

The $3.5 trillion spending package includes a promise of free community college for illegal immigrants.

Democrats' education plan would incentivize illegal immigration; their immigration plan is to create new voters.

As the fight over the proposed $3.5 trillion spending package continues to unfold, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told Politico that he fears so-called “free” community college might be on the chopping block.  If Congress sidelines the Democrats’ plan to socialize community college, this country will have dodged a bullet. As the legislation is written, the spending package would worsen the border crisis and harm working-class Americans.

Tucked into the draft legislation is an oft-overlooked promise that anyone must be able to access the benefit, “regardless of citizenship status.” In practice, this means that illegal immigrants will be able to go to community college on our dime.

To be sure, socialized community college would be a harmful policy even if it were restricted to American citizens. “Free” community college removes any incentive for students to decide if the value of an academic program exceeds its costs, because there is no cost – to them. When potential students have no costs to weigh against benefits, a community college could offer programs of little quality and still count on a steady stream of students and tuition dollars. Community colleges would have no incentive to cut their costs, since they have a guaranteed customer in the federal government. Intervening in the market this way would be to the detriment of students and taxpayers alike.

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Despite the many success stories coming out of trade schools, the fact remains that community colleges are not a silver bullet for students. According to EducationData.org, nearly 40 percent of students who enroll in community college before age 20 will drop out; for students who enroll at age 20 or higher, the dropout rate is more than 50 percent. A 2020 study found that making community college free to attend in Tennessee caused enrollment of first-time, full-time students to spike by at least 40 percent. A similar enrollment spike nationwide would funnel more students into a system that does not serve most of them.

Extending “free” community college to illegal immigrants turns this bad policy into a devastating one. This would make the border crisis even worse, because this creates a greater incentive to come here.  A 2017 study of migration patterns found that access to a quality education was a significant factor in driving transnational migration, legal or not. Educational opportunity is a strong pull factor: A 2018 paper from the Center for Immigration Studies found that Guatemalan officials say “lack of access to education” in their country drives people to attempt to reach the United States.

Vice President Kamala Harris says she’s addressing “root causes” of illegal immigration, and yet her party is about to plant another root cause by choice: The promise of a free associate’s degree.

An influx of people who can obtain no-cost associates degrees will harm the labor market for working-class Americans. George J. Borjas, a Harvard professor who has spent more than three decades studying immigration, says that labor markets are susceptible to supply and demand. He wrote in Politico, “Wage trends over the past half-century suggest that a 10 percent increase in the number of workers with a particular set of skills probably lowers the wage of that group by at least 3 percent.” Should the spending package pass as written, blue-collar Americans who paid their community college tuition would soon be competing in a labor market with illegal immigrants who gained the same education for free.

Based on the principles of supply and demand in the labor market, immigration from low-income countries hurts the economic standing of low-income citizens. A 2018 study of Norwegian immigration data found that “the large inflow of immigrants from low-income countries to Norway since the early 1990s…can explain a considerable part of the relative decline in economic performance among natives with lower class background.”

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One need only look at the Democrats’ illegal immigration play to see their real intentions by free community college. Their massive spending package included a pathway to citizenship for 8 million illegal immigrants. Fortunately, the Senate parliamentarian blocked this from going forward, as the New York Times reports. Still, by even attempting to shoehorn amnesty into spending bills, Democrats told on themselves: They want to create incentives for people to come here illegally, turn them into legal citizens, and expect them to vote for Democratic candidates.

In a survey of Hispanics in America, Pew Research has found that 35 percent of illegal immigrants identify with the Democratic Party, as opposed to 4 percent with the GOP. One wonders if the Democrats would be quite so eager to accelerate a pathway to citizenship if illegal immigrants leaned to the political right.

This misguided policy is a reflection of Democrats’ priorities: Sacrifice American workers, bring more people here illegally, eventually convert them into voters, and do so all under the guise of generosity. Everyone who wants a secure southern border and a thriving blue-collar labor market ought to hope Sec. Cardona’s fear comes true.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito