Show them the money

By and

Editor’s Note: This is the first part in a three-part series about funding for diversity. Part two will be printed Wednesday.

Local business mogul Larry Miller is footing the bill for a handful of undocumented immigrants to attend classes at the U.

Starting in 2003, Miller began providing undocumented students with full tuition and room and board as part of his diversity scholarship program. He has since provided five undocumented students with the scholarship.

The students are among 58 recipients of Miller’s enrichment scholarship for ethnically diverse students. Once on the scholarship, students are generally supported until they graduate.

Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz, said U administrators, who oversee his scholarship program, initially made the decision to award undocumented students without his knowing.

“They didn’t tell me, but I didn’t ask,” he said. “I never stopped to consider whether they were documented or undocumented.”

After learning undocumented students were receiving the scholarship, Miller said he told administrators he has a “strong preference” that the scholarship go to legal citizens, but that he will ultimately let them decide what students receive the funding.

“I said to them, ‘are there not enough properly qualified students?’ and left it to them to make the right decision about that,” Miller said. “By and large, we should reward people that comply with the law.”

Miller said he spoke with administrators about the issue almost a year ago.

Stayner Landward, dean of students, said he recalls Miller saying he could choose one undocumented student each year for the scholarship. The U selected an undocumented immigrant as one of about a dozen recipients of Miller’s scholarship this fall.

“There may be differences in how we recall that, but I did want to bring that to his attention so he was aware of it,” Landward said. “I would not consciously go contrary to Larry Miller’s wishes.”

Miller said he wasn’t surprised to learn the scholarship was still going to undocumented students and that it “would not dissuade (him) from wanting to continue the program as it is.”

He said he trusts Landward and other U officials to make decisions about the scholarship on a student-by-student basis.

“I have great trust in their judgment, especially Stayner,” he said. “The track record so far is so good that I would be foolish not to trust their judgment.”

Some fierce opponents of undocumented immigration said that by allowing the scholarship to go to undocumented students, Miller is promoting lawbreaking.

J.D. Bowns, a junior finance major, said he was surprised to learn that Miller, whom he considers to be a conservative, is funding the scholarships.

“Giving a scholarship to an illegal alien encourages illegal immigration,” he said. “Let’s fix (immigration) law before just handing out money.”

Tony Yapias, a leader in the local Latina/o community, said undocumented students who receive these scholarships have no other source of financial assistance beyond what private donors provide.

“They are outstanding students and they proved themselves worthy of a scholarship,” Yapias said. “They’re as qualified as any other student, they’re just not legal.”