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Arts and Media June 2024 PREMIUM

The number of Hispanic college graduates, especially women, has significantly increased. Meanwhile, universities face protests, balancing free speech and enforcement. Immigration remains a contentious election issue, with a bipartisan border tightening "poison pill" provision facing opposition, complicating legislative efforts and impacting upcoming elections.

Hispanic College Graduate Numbers Rise

“The percentage of college-graduate Latinas has spiked,” Axios reported in May. “It rose from 5% in 2000 to 20% in 2021.”   

“Latino students make up most of the nation’s growth in college degrees”, according to an April Excelencia in Education report.  

“Hispanics represent nearly 80% of the growth in the number of degrees attained in the last five years,” the Pew Hispanic Research Center reported. 

Excelencia in Education pointed out three unique facts about Latino college students: 1) they are more likely to be the first in their family to attend college than any other ethnic group; 2) are more likely to receive the federal Pell Grant; and 3) are less likely to take out student loans to pay for college. The report also claimed that Hispanic college graduates are more likely to be represented in occupations with lower salaries. About 28 percent of Hispanic adults 25 years old and older have earned an AA degree or higher. Hispanics represent about 19.5 percent of the total U.S. Population.

All the reports agreed that college education attainment numbers have risen, especially for Hispanic women, despite their facing special challenges. “Latinas feel cross-pressured in cultural ways, making their college journeys a little different than for other U.S. students,” according to the Pew Hispanic Research Center. “They have to juggle cultural expectations around gender roles rooted in Latin America and those rooted in the U.S." Majorities of Latinas say that U.S. Hispanic women face pressure to do housework, be beautiful, and start families. More than half of Latinas say they often “feel pressure to provide for their loved ones at home or succeed in their jobs.” But that mirrors life stresses experienced by women across the United States today, according to PEW. “To be clear, although the profile and pathway of Latino students is representative of most students today, decision-makers need to know who they are serving,” the Excelencia report concluded. “Educational institutions need to invest in strategies and practices that more intentionally serve Latino students.” 

Some Campuses Trying Tough Love on Protestors

The third week of April this year was especially fraught at many universities as campus administrators struggled with student (and outsider) protestors erecting tent encampments on their central quads from which in many cases they displayed antisemitic and anti-Israel tirades. Some took over campus buildings, and some students from both sides assaulted others who came to voice a counter message. 

What were administrators to do? The vast amount of protest activity is well protected (even encouraged) by broad decades-old campus Freedom of Speech/First Amendment policies. Some administrators shut down classes and the campus for a while; some canceled large graduation ceremonies and speakers. One campus rabbi told fearful Jewish students to return to their homes and take classes and exams online.  Several administrators called the city police (although the DC Mayor rejected that appeal telling the campuses to handle the law enforcement themselves). Hundreds of protestors were arrested throughout the country; most were detained for a short time. Some were suspended.

Two renowned campus presidents advocated a tough love approach. “We have repeatedly, patiently explained two things to protesters,” stated former congressman Ben Sasse, now President of the University of Florida. “We will always defend your rights to free speech and free assembly. But if you cross the line on clearly prohibited activities, you will be thrown off campus and suspended…. In Gainesville, that means a three-year prohibition from campus. We mean it. We enforce it. We don’t coddle emotions. We’re a university, not a daycare. Students own the consequences of their decisions as adults.”

University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos wrote a letter to protestors and students:

“Dear Members of the University Community… Free expression is the core animating value of the University of Chicago, so it is critical that we be clear about how I and my administration think about the issue of encampments.The general principle we will abide by is to provide the greatest leeway possible for free expression, even expression of viewpoints that some find deeply offensive. We only will intervene when an exercise of free expression blocks the learning or expression of others or that substantially disrupts the functioning or safety of the University.These are our principles. They are clear. I ask the students who have established this encampment to instead embrace the multitude of other tools at their disposal. Seek to persuade others of your viewpoint with methods that do not violate policies or disrupt the functioning of the University and the safety of others.” 

The Poison Pill in the Proposed Border Tightening Bill

Anyone following immigration issues knows that it is becoming a complicated and crucial election issue with extremists on both Democratic and Republican tickets demanding almost opposite actions. It might help to see a simple timeline and the numbers that are creating the crisis:


- 1.2 million new immigrant Permanent Legal Residency (green cards) are granted annually.

- over 2 million Temporary non-immigration permits are granted yearly to students, visitors, etc.

- 11 million illegal immigrant workers and families reside in the U.S. including (documented/registered) DACA recipients.

Since 2021:

- More than eight million people have illegally crossed the border; they are mainly young men from all over the world who are seeking work but encouraged to seek asylum. 

- In April 2023, HR2- the Republican “Secure the Border Act” was passed in the House with many Trump era restrictions and enforcement measures featured; it was stopped in the Senate.

- February 2024: a “bipartisan” bill with some money for border enforcement passed the Senate. It was stopped in the House by Democrats as well because it allowed borders to be open until illegal crossings reached 5,000 a day for a consecutive week.

- Spring 2024: a revised ‘bipartisan’ Senate Democratic bill changed the cap to 4,000 a day – becoming a ‘poison pill’ which Republicans rejected again.

- May 24: Senator Schumer calls for a re-vote on the reopened “Poison Pill bill”; the Senate or House will likely kill it with several vulnerable Democrats from swing states.

- An October surprise?


For months it has been predicted that the Senate will flip Republican in the November elections. Immigration is a top three general election issue (not abortion or democracy). To save the Senate, Democratic strategists are urging Biden to adopt more Trump-era immigration restrictions before the election.

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