Sunday, January 6, 2008
Utah State Representative Glenn Donnelson Of North Ogden Files HB241 To Outlaw In-State Tuition Rates For Children Of Illegal Aliens
The Deseret Morning News reports that a GOP state lawmaker is again attempting to repeal a law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay the lower in-state tuition rates at Utah public universities if they attended a Utah high school for at least three years and graduated. A previous attempt to repeal the law in 2007, HB224, passed 9-5 in the House Education Committee but failed in a tied House floor vote. However, this year could be different. "I hope we can win it by one vote," said Rep. Glenn Donnelson (R-North Ogden), the lawmaker who sponsored the last attempt and who is pushing the new initiative, known as HB241. Donnelson pictured above left.
Donnelson's argument for HB241 is simple: the state is violating federal law by giving an in-state tuition rate to undocumented students when it isn't available to U.S. citizens who aren't Utah residents. And a Federal law passed in 1996 would seem to support his position. The cited law prohibits illegal aliens from receiving in-state tuition rates at public institutions of higher education. Specifically, Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Title 8, Chapter 14, Sec. 1623) states: "an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident."
However, those who support keeping the tuition law, passed in 2002, say Utah is on sound legal ground and that the undocumented students should have the same educational opportunities as their peers.
"The potential of a child is the most important thing," said Theresa Martinez, co-chairperson of Utahns for the American Dream, a coalition supporting the tuition law, which includes organizations such as the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and Utah System of Higher Education.
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. recently told the Deseret Morning News editorial board that he supports keeping the tuition law because "we should not hold the sins of the parents against the kids."
In the current academic year, preliminary numbers from the Utah System of Higher Education show 280 students are paying in-state tuition, for a total of $1.4 million in out-of-state tuition waived by state colleges and universities. Donnelson's law would grandfather in those students already attending a college or university, but would deny the in-state rate to students who enter after May 1, 2008.
Donnelson's efforts may be hurt somewhat by a federal appeals court's decision last fall to dismiss a similar Kansas tuition law because the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. However, Donnelson said that the ruling never addressed the merits of the law and that he may be helped by a growing frustration at the state Capitol over the federal government's failure to act on immigration reform.
"Now the states are dealing with it," said Donnelson, who is also sponsoring bills to allow local law officers to perform some immigration duties and to require that public employers verify new hires' legal status.
Some other lawmakers are also sponsoring bills dealing with illegal immigration, the most comprehensive of which is still being drafted by Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George. While the text has yet to be released, Hickman has told the Deseret Morning News that it won't include the tuition repeal. According to an article published by the Deseret Morning News on December 10th, 2007, Hickman's bill, still being vetted by legislative staff lawyers, would create a class A misdemeanor for harboring or transporting undocumented immigrants; would create barriers against hiring or providing public benefits to the undocumented; and would allow local law officers to play an enforcement role. It also would repeal a law allowing in-state tuition for qualified undocumented immigrants and repeal their driving privilege cards.
Commentary: While we shouldn't "hold kids responsible for the sins of their parents", as the apologists for illegals like to say, we also shouldn't be rewarding bad behavior. Allowing illegals to attend Utah public universities at in-state tuition rates not only rewards their parents' bad behavior for breaking into our country, but will also serve as a continuing incentive for even more illegals to break into our country.
Equal opportunity should be reserved only for legal residents of the United States, and even then, American citizens should always get preference over foreign nationals.