Bill would repeal in-state tuition for immigrants

The Education Committee heard testimony Feb. 7 on a bill that would repeal in-state tuition rates at Nebraska’s universities and colleges for children of illegal immigrants who are not lawfully present in the United States.

State legislation passed in 2006 offered in-state tuition to students who:

  • resided with his or her parent, guardian or conservator while attending a public or private high school in Nebraska;
  • graduated from a Nebraska high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma;
  • resided in Nebraska for at least three years before the date the student graduated from high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma;
  • have the bona fide intention to make Nebraska his or her permanent residence;
  • are registered as an entering student in a state postsecondary educational institution no earlier than the 2006 fall semester; and
  • provided to the state postsecondary educational institution an affidavit stating that he or she will file an application to become a permanent resident at the earliest opportunity he or she is eligible to do so.

Fremont Sen. Charlie Janssen, introducer of LB657, said children of illegal immigrants should not be considered residents of the state and therefore are not eligible to receive in-state tuition rates.

“Nebraska should not grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants unless they do to all citizens,” Janssen said.

Giving a benefit or subsidy to someone who is not lawfully present and denying it to someone who is lawfully present is in direct violation of federal law, he said.

Dale Monsell, representing Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, testified in support of the bill.

These students are not legally employable in the U.S. after they graduate, Monsell said, and their education should be the responsibility of their nation of origin.

John Wiegert, a resident of Fremont and supporter of the bill, said in-state tuition for illegal immigrants directly rewards people for their parents’ illegal acts.

Shirley Mora James, president of the Nebraska Hispanic Bar Association, testified in opposition to the bill.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Mora James said, granting in-state tuition to an undocumented student is not one of the benefits regulated by illegal immigration reform.

Individual states must decide whether or not to allow illegal immigrants to attend postsecondary institutions, she said, and the state of Nebraska has the authority to grant admission to undocumented students if it chooses to do so.

J.B. Milliken, president of the University of Nebraska, also opposed LB657.

The ability of undocumented young people to contribute to the state’s economy depends on their education, Milliken said in a letter to the committee.

The state claims that education is a priority, he said, so repealing a law that promotes education is counterproductive.

Rev. Howard Dotson of the Westminister Presbyterian Church testified in opposition to the bill, saying education plays an important role in the Latino community.

Nationwide, 50 percent of Latino youth fail to graduate high school, Dotson said. Having more Latino high school graduates in Nebraska who attend college will provide the community with invaluable mentors, he said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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