As Scott Greer of Campus Reform posted yesterday, the Oregon State House of Representatives passed a bill on February 22 allowing illegal immigrants to obtain in-state tuition.
Democrat Rep. Michael Dembrow, the bill’s chief sponsor, hailed its passage as “historic” and Governor Kitzhaber (D) praised the vote for extending “tuition equity for all Oregonians” and pledges to sign the legislation if it reached his desk.
Prior to passage, however, Democrats, who outnumber Republicans 34-26, voted down a proposed amendment that would have required illegal immigrant to begin to work towards citizenship before receiving in-state tuition.
At least one right-leaning organization wary of illegal immigration also expressed concern over the legality of the bill, which still must clear the Oregon state Senate.
Ira Mehlman, the media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an organization which fights for a major reduction in immigration, said he believes the HB 2787 violates a 1996 Congressional provision that required states to extend the same benefits to out-of-states students if they grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
According to that law: “An alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible…for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.”
“It was clearly the intent of Congress to prevent this,” Mehlman told Campus Reform.
House Bill 2787 would grant in-state tuition for undocumented students who have attended school in the country for at least five years; studied at an Oregon high school for at least three years, and graduated; and show intention to become a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
Five Republicans supported tuition equity Friday: Reps. Cliff Bentz, Ontario; Vicki Berger, Salem; John Huffman, The Dalles; Mark Johnson, Hood River; and Julie Parrish, West Linn.
House Republicans unsuccessfully proposed an alternative version that would have let the bill expire in 2016 and limited tuition equity to undocumented immigrants in the U.S. by July 1. Republicans also wanted stricter guidelines on how students would demonstrate they intended to become lawful residents.
The version approved by House members would require a copy of the student’s application for the federal deferred action program or a similar federal immigration program, or a statement of intent that the student will seek to obtain citizenship as permitted under federal law.
However, not all agree. As J.B. Wogan of Governing wrote on Feburary 25:
Gabriella Morrongiello, a member of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom and an out-of-state college student at Oregon State University, urged lawmakers not to pass a tuition equity law because it would be unfair to citizens from other states. She called the proposal “confiscation and redistribution” because she anticipates enrollment will sky rocket and costs will be shifted to families like hers through increased tuition and fees.
Some opponents of tuition equity laws warn that offering such state benefits sends the wrong message to prospective illegal immigrants not yet residing in Oregon.
“Accommodations to illegal aliens such as driver licenses, in-state tuition, etc. legitimize illegal immigration and encourage more of it,” writes Jim Ludwick, a founder of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, in the Portland Tribune.
While the cost of this bill might be low-impact, according to some studies, it’s still a violation of our laws. It’s about principle. Pieces of legislation like this are detrimental to our national push to solve our immigration problem since it disincetivizes illegals to apply for legal status. Why should illegal immigrants come out of the woodwork if legislatures are going to grant them state services? Granted, I see why Oregon did this. The federal government has been an abject failure in solving this problem, and states have taken more of a role in passing immigration measures in their own right. Arizona’s SB 1070, which made a federal law a state law, is a prime example. We all know how that’s turning out.