House expected to vote on tuition measure

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

U students, faculty and administrators have been holding their breath since the state Legislature tabled a bill that could repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students last week.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Glen Donnelson, R-North Ogden, said he will likely bring the bill up for a vote during today’s House of Representatives floor session.

“I’ve been waiting to follow through on how students could get a visa, but there’s been a small hang-up,” Donnelson said.

Donnelson said instead of having undocumented students pay in-state tuition, they could try to get a visa from the Mexican consulate, which he said would take a few weeks.

The hang-up to this plan is that the student would need a passport, which he said takes several weeks to obtain, and have a form of income or financial support.

“I want to give students an avenue that’s not a hang-up with the law,” Donnelson said. “But they still wouldn’t be able to get a job after graduating. The federal government would have to make that change.”

Theresa Martinez, a U professor and assistant vice president for academic outreach, said not to be fooled by Donnelson’s words. Martinez has been lobbying against House Bill 241 and other pieces of anti-illegal immigrant legislation.

“There’s no such thing as a matter of weeks when it comes to visas,” Martinez said. “Visas can take years. It’s very difficult to believe (this would be) a possible or feasible alternative.”

Last week Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George, removed the in-state tuition repeal from his immigration reform bill, Senate Bill 81. Donnelson said he thought Hickman decided to take out this portion of the bill because it probably would not have passed on the floor with the provision.

Hickman was not available for comment Monday.

SB 81 combines proposals from several pieces of legislation already moving through the House and Senate, including empowering state and local law enforcement officers to act as U.S. immigration agents through a negotiation between the attorney general and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Martinez said the postponement of the bill probably has to do with politicking.

“They pulled (the tuition repeal) out of (SB 81) last week, which is good, but it may be because at some level, they realized it wouldn’t pass with it,” she said, noting that this portion of the bill isn’t as popular with legislators as those dealing with law enforcement.

Martinez said the U is concerned about the legislation and will continue to fight against it.

“We have wonderful students at the University of Utah that are worth all this work,” she said. “It’s awful to see this happen to them needlessly. And why? Because their parents made a decision they didn’t have a say in.”

If HB 241 passes, Martinez said it would be more difficult for the U to hire racially diverse faculty because it would change the climate of campus.

“It’s the message it sends,” Martinez said.

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