Things are bad enough right now if you are a poor American citizen scrapping to pay your way through college. They’re worse, however, if you are a poor noncitizen trying to do the same:

While much of the evidence is anecdotal, undocumented students across the country have been hampered in their quests for higher learning by the dismal economy and restrictive state legislation targeted at immigrants. The tide against states’ help for these students has been rising as three states last year established prohibitions against in-state tuition benefits — one state, South Carolina, prohibited college enrollment altogether — and laws friendly to undocumented students in two other states hang in jeopardy.

“Like many other students who are applying for college these days, undocumented students are facing very high tuition rates, but then, because of their immigration status, there’s another hurdle that they have to overcome,” says Olga Medina, an immigration policy associate with the National Council of La Raza. “There are very limited opportunities for them to obtain sources of funding for their education, and then there’s the fact that there are very limited jobs.”

Conservatives can rant about immigration all they want, but you’d have to be truly lacking in sympathy to not root for a recent immigrant who wants nothing more than to get an American college degree.

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Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.