Bill ending in-state immigrant tuition may be amended

By By The Associated Press

By The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY-State Rep. Glenn Donnelson may amend his bill ending in-state tuition for undocumented students so that it will not apply to students already enrolled.

Donnelson, R-North Ogden, said, “It helps those in the system, and puts us on hold until the federal government helps us out.”

His bill, HB7, would repeal a 2002 law that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition if they’ve attended a Utah high school for at least three years and graduated.

The House Education Committee voted 9-5 to send the bill to the House floor, where it is awaiting a hearing.

A new poll conducted for the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV found that 54 percent of the 415 Utahns surveyed oppose the tuition while 40 percent support it. The poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates and reported in a copyright story in the newspaper Monday, has a 5 percent margin of error.

Fifty-seven percent of those polled said the undocumented students should be allowed to attend a college or university, while 38 percent said they should not be allowed to attend.

Last school year, 169 students attended Utah colleges and universities under the law, according to the Utah System of Higher Education.

USHE officials say that if HB7 passes as drafted, undocumented students will not be able to enroll at all. Without the tuition law, they would need a student visa to enroll and most probably would not qualify for a visa, officials said.

Supporters of the bill contend that the in-state tuition for undocumented students opens the state to a possible lawsuit from students who are paying out-of-state tuition.

Donnelson has argued that the tax-break was enacted in the expectation that Congress was going to pass the Dream Act, which would have amended federal law that limited states’ ability to offer higher education benefits to the children of undocumented residents. The federal proposal was never enacted.

Meanwhile, the dismissal of a federal court lawsuit against a similar Kansas tuition law is under appeal, and a state court lawsuit has been filed in California.

The Utah attorney general’s office believes the state is not breaking federal law by offering the tuition rate to undocumented students.

Michael Clara, spokesman for the Utah Hispanic/Latino Legislative Task Force, said that even with the proposed amendment, the bill seems shortsighted.

“We’re looking at the future of our community, and I don’t just mean the Hispanic community,” he said. “It impacts everybody.”

Alex Segura, director of the Utah Minuteman Project, said the poll shows “Utah citizens are exercising their rights and saying this isn’t fair.”