LAT's Song Wails Dirge for Illegal Immigrant's Woes

"For an illegal immigrant, getting into UCLA was the easy part," lamented the headline for a Groundhog Day article by Los Angeles Times's Jason Song.

"A San Pedro girl's undocumented status means no financial aid. Money is tight, classes are tough, and just getting to campus takes 2 1/2 hours," reads the subheader for Song's February 2 Column One story.

Yes, despite the national and state economies in recession and California in a major budget crunch, the L.A. Times has the chutzpah to lament the obstacles to a taxpayer-subsidized college education for an illegal immigrant.

It seems considering legal immigrants and American citizens the victims of the high social and governmental costs of illegal immigration just isn't in Song's liberal hymnal. Apparently Song's aim was to paint one Karina De La Cruz as a downtrodden Cinderella in need of a beneficent fairy godmother (emphasis mine):

Karina De La Cruz wakes up in the dark on her first day of classes at UCLA.

Pushing herself off a two-seat couch in the living room of a San Pedro apartment this September morning, she tries not to wake a brother sleeping in a twin bed next to her, or another dozing with his wife and baby daughter in the bedroom. De La Cruz dresses quickly and briefly considers taking her skateboard, then thinks of how her mother rolls her eyes whenever she rides it. She leaves it behind.

"I want to look right, I want to act right," she says later.

She hurries to the corner to catch the bus, clutching her last $5. She scans the road -- she can't be late, can't do anything that would hurt her chances of maintaining a B average. The first in her family to attend college, De La Cruz believes that a 3.0 is her way out of a crowded apartment and into a life with new opportunities.

De La Cruz faces fairy tale odds. She's an illegal immigrant, so she isn't eligible for most forms of state and federal financial aid. The University of California system, by policy, does not require applicants to disclose their citizenship status: Officials say their goal is to find the best students, not to enforce immigration law. UCLA officials say they aren't even sure how many undocumented students are on their campus.
The 18-year-old De La Cruz graduated barely in the top 20% of her San Pedro High class and is competing against students with much higher GPAs and test scores. She probably doesn't have enough money to finish her first year of classes.

She has almost no safety net: She doesn't know her father, and her mother, who lives across the street, didn't get up to wish her good luck. She met a few people during orientation but doesn't have anyone she would consider a friend.

UCLA officials acknowledge that some freshmen are admitted for reasons other than their grades and test scores, that some students come from dramatically different backgrounds than many of their peers but show academic promise. They say there are programs on campus to help these students But De La Cruz isn't aware of them.

"To have a chance to thrive here, students like that need an advocate," said Charles Alexander, UCLA's associate vice provost for student diversity.

The rest of Song's article reads like a dreary dirge, noting that De La Cruz faces dim employment and higher education prospects given her major and her illegal status:

Weeks of riding the bus and struggling through classes had taken its toll. As she rattled north toward campus, De La Cruz realized that her chances of getting a job as a psychologist were tiny even if she were to graduate with a B average because she probably can't afford graduate school and most companies won't hire illegal immigrants.

"I guess I'm going to have to put my diploma up on the wall and that'll be all," she said.

Of course, there are community colleges and other educational options open to De La Cruz much closer to her apartment and more affordable than UCLA, even as an illegal immigrant.

But why let a little thing such as personal responsibility get in the way of writing a one-sided Column One story?

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters