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Monday, May 16, 2011

Immigration and Tuition

Although the Constitution empowers Congress to make a uniform rule of naturalization, the states have played a role in immigration policy. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Anngie Gutierrez was a child when she arrived in the United States as an illegal immigrant 10 years ago. There's still no path to legal status for her, but in Maryland and a handful of other states, there is a more affordable road to college.

Gutierrez, a high school junior in Hyattsville, Md., will benefit from a new state law that allows illegal immigrants who reside there to pay in-state tuition rates at Maryland's public colleges. If she lived in Virginia, about 15 miles to the west, she would find that many public colleges require undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition.Some Virginia legislators want to go further: In February, the House of Delegates passed legislation that would prohibit the state's public universities from admitting illegal immigrants. The proposal has not passed the state Senate.

The states' radically different approaches illustrate the polarization of Americans over what to do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., and the heated nature of a debate that extends far from border states such as Arizona and California.

The tuition battle has grown, in part, because of a lack of action by Congress. The federal government holds jurisdiction over immigration law, and a 1982 Supreme Court ruling mandated that states provide illegal immigrants with access to K-12 education in public schools. But the absence of a comprehensive federal immigration plan has given states relatively free rein to impose their own rules on issues such as who can attend public colleges, and at what rates
See a summary from the National Conference of State Legislatures.