Posted on Mon, Feb. 21, 2011
Kansas House votes to repeal tuition break for children of illegal immigrants
By BRAD COOPER
The Star’s Topeka correspondent
A bill that would repeal in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants cleared a major legislative hurdle Monday.
The Kansas House voted 69-49 to approve the bill, which would repeal a law the Legislature passed in 2004.
“We had an election in November, and we have a group of folks who see things differently,” said Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors.
The law grants in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants who graduate from a Kansas high school and pledge that they intend to become citizens. Last fall, 413 students — including 84 at Johnson County Community College — received the benefit while studying at state universities or junior colleges.
Several unsuccessful attempts have been made in recent years to repeal the law. But with conservatives seizing more seats in the Legislature during the last election, repeal efforts gained new momentum.
The bill now goes to the Kansas Senate, where Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican, said the bill would have a tougher time.
“The Senate has never shown much interest in repealing that in the past. I assume that’s still the case,” Morris said.
The debate over in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants is unfolding across the nation. Since 2001, 11 states, including Kansas, have allowed in-state tuition for immigrant students, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But in recent years, the trend has started to reverse itself, with five states ending the in-state tuition benefit. Supporters of the repeal say the current law gives an advantage to the children of undocumented immigrants over students in Kansas legally.
“Our constituents know what they want, and they want support of this bill,” said Rep. Caryn Tyson, a Parker Republican and another sponsor of the bill.
Opponents contend that the bill would penalize children who had no choice in following their parents to the United States. They also contend that it would discourage children from going to college after the state had invested in their elementary and high school educations.
Repealing the law could save $1 million or more a year for the state, supporters contend. But critics say that amount is inflated because it falsely assumes every student now paying in-state tuition would stay in school and pay out-of-state tuition. Repeal could chase those students away from Kansas, meaning the state could potentially lose about $900,000 a year in tuition.