H.B. 208 is deceitful

After listening to the way the Utah Legislature is trying to sell House Bill 208, one would think it has started peddling miracle cures.

The bill passed out of committee Feb. 18 with only one dissenter and will now be voted on by the full Utah House of Representatives before going to the Senate. If passed, H.B. 208 would require all undocumented students receiving in-state tuition to sign an affidavit promising they have not worked and will not work.

The Legislature is attempting to advertise the bill as a measure that looks for undocumented students who might “unknowingly” break the law by working in the United States, as if these students aren’t already well-aware of their predicament. The bill will actually undermine H.B. 144, passed in 2002, which allows undocumented individuals to receive in-state tuition if they attended a Utah high school for at least three years and graduated or received the equivalent of a high school diploma.

H.B. 208 would put undocumented students in a situation where they can’t afford in-state tuition unless they have income, but they don’t qualify for the cheaper tuition rate unless they are unemployed, discouraging them from entering higher education and essentially making House Bill 144 worthless.

Undocumented students do technically break the law by securing employment in the United States, but they do the same just by living here. Yet the Legislature isn’t calling for the mass deportation of undocumented individuals, just a bill that would put education beyond their reach. If lawmakers honestly plan to continue spinning this bill as sympathetic and helpful to undocumented students, they might as well get their story straight. Legislators know they don’t have the support to eliminate in-state tuition for undocumented students, so instead, they have drafted a bill that makes in-state tuition unavailable for most anyway, all the while disguising it as a measure of goodwill. That sounds pretty underhanded to us.

Part of H.B. 144 requires undocumented students receiving in-state tuition to file an application to legalize their immigration status as soon as possible. It is a system that encourages both the education of undocumented individuals and the pursuit of legal citizenship. It can convert uneducated, undocumented individuals into educated, legal citizens. Passing H.B. 208 would frustrate the process, and a remedy to our nation’s illegal immigration crisis wouldn’t be any closer.

Stripping undocumented students of the opportunity to educate themselves, even if it is done with a smile, doesn’t stop it from being wrong. We hope the House will vote the bill down before it can even reach the Senate.

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