Tennessee is poised to become the second state since President Trump took office to offer in-state college tuition to students whose parents brought them into the United States illegally. Washington, D.C., passed a similar bill earlier this year, while in total, 20 states allow such students to access in-state tuition.
Panels in the state’s House and Senate have already passed the proposal, with another House committee expected to vote on the measure Tuesday, according to news reports. The bill has bipartisan support in Tennessee, a deeply-conservative state that went to Trump during the 2016 presidential election. It’s being promoted as a way to improve the state’s economy by proponents such as the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, which highlights a looming labor shortage as a reason to think carefully about the work immigrants can provide. Other supporters say kids shouldn’t be victimized by choices their parents made.
“I’m all for building the wall and U.S. sovereignty, closing our borders. But we didn’t, and now we’re damaging innocent people,” Rep. Mark White, a sponsor of the bill and a Republican, told the Associated Press. “I’m just trying to protect Tennessee in the long run, because they’re here.” Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has also endorsed the bill.
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 20 states offer in-state tuition to unauthorized immigrant students — 16 state legislatures passed such laws, while four state university systems have provided tuition benefits to such students.
“These bills are primarily intended to help children of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents and work hard in school with the hope of going to college but then discover that they face insurmountable obstacles,” the National Immigration Law Center [NILC] writes on its website, adding that public colleges and universities are “inconsistent in their treatment of such students.”
By Ethan Harfenist for VOCATIV
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