House panel backs repeal of in-state tuition for students in U.S. illegally

Published January 30, 2008 1:59 am
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With about 100 people waiting to hear the debate on a bill that would repeal in-state college tuition for undocumented students, the House Education Committee on Tuesday started its meeting 30 minutes late and then only allowed for 10 minutes of public comment on it.

In an 8-5 vote, Republicans passed HB241. Four Democrats and Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, voted against the measure. The bill now heads to the House floor.

Last year, the repeal died just shy of one vote in the House.

In his fifth consecutive attempt to kill the 2002 in-state college tuition law, bill sponsor Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, said undocumented students should be encouraged to return to their native country before they turn 18, so they have a chance to return to the United States legally. He also said it is unnecessary for undocumented students to go to college if they can't get internships or jobs.

"They can't legally work and employers won't hire them," Donnelson said. "Are we selling a false dream?"

Bill supporters, including the Utah Minuteman Project and the Utah Eagle Forum, said the law is a magnet for undocumented immigrants to move to Utah and undocumented students are here illegally.

"We are encouraging illegal immigration by providing benefits," Kaianne Lisonbee said.

Representatives from the University of Utah, the Utah System of Higher Education, Ivory Development and other community agencies pleaded with lawmakers to oppose the bill.

Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper and committee chairman, was text messaging as Donnelson gave his presentation. Hughes said a long discussion wasn't necessary on the bill because the committee was made up of the same lawmakers who supported it last year.

Before the committee voted, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said she opposed the bill and found it "wrong-headed and mean-spirited" to attack undocumented students who already face enough challenges to succeed.

"We have to be forward-thinking and hope the laws will change," she said.

In the 2006-2007 school year, about 280 undocumented students at Utah's nine public colleges and universities paid in-state tuition - one-third of them attending Salt Lake Community College.



Would repeal a 6-year-old law allowing in-state college tuition to children of undocumented residents who have graduated from a Utah high school.

Next: After passing its first committee, the bill now goes to the full House.

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