Leg. tables bill that would repeal illegal-immigrant law

By By Jake Parkinson

By Jake Parkinson

A bill repealing a current law that allows thechildren of illegal immigrants to obtain a highereducation while paying in-state tuition will beheld until next year’s session of the Utah StateLegislature.Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, wasconcerned his bill would be thought of as racist,but he told the House and Education CommitteeFriday that it “is not an illegal alien bill, but aprocedural bill.”Donnelson’s bill would have repealed a 3-year-old law granting resident tuition status toundocumented immigrants who go to and graduatefrom Utah high schools.It’s not a large group. Estimates range fromless than 50 to more than 75. “It’s a chance forthese students to advance. They could not affordout-of-state tuition,” said Commissioner ofHigher Education Richard Kendall.”I am not a lawyer…but I do know this: Thisis a group of students we would like to help,”Kendall said.Regardless, it’s the principle that held the interestof lawmakers.Sitting to Donnellson’s right was Kris Kobach,a Kansas City law professor, who said thestate’s current law violates the U.S. Constitutionbecause it grants rights to illegal immigrantsthat it do esn’t grant to lega l immigrantsand citizens.Kobach also worried that the law could putthe state in financial ruin if it is not repealed immediately.Kobach cited federal code, pointed out contradictionswithin Utah code and poked holesthrough the current state statute.”I wouldn’t want to defend this law in court,”he said. In reality, he is the prosecuting attorneyin a Missouri case debating a similar law wherehis client is suing for reimbursement of his nonresidenttuition.Kobach claimed that once he wins, case lawprecedent would force Utah to refund nearly$100 million.”It’s clear what the committee needs to do,”said Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, speaking infavor of passing the bill out of committee.But Rep. Duane Bourdeaux, D-Salt Lake City,put on the brakes, saying he wanted to hear fromhigher education representatives and the state’sAttorney General’s office.”We’ve heard the prosecution’scase, now let’s hear thedefense,” he said.Assistant Attorney GeneralBill Evans explained that becauseanyone, undocumentedor not, who attends and graduatesfrom a Utah high schoolcan get resident tuition status,the bill does not, in his opinion,violate federal law.”It’s the same opinion I renderedwhen the bill was originallypassed in 2002,” Evanssaid.By meeting’s end, the committeenarrowly approveda motion to study the issuemore intently over the nextyear and readdress it duringnext year’s Legislature.Irma Hernandez, a studentat Weber State University,hopes that after furtherstudy lawmakers will realizethe law gives hope to manyof her friends who otherwisecouldn’t afford college.At the same time, she saidshe hopes lawmakers will realizeKobach’s trip was paidby the anti-immigration groupUtahns for Immigration Reformand [email protected]