Possible Tuition Change For Illegal Immigrants

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Immigration is one of the hottest topics the Texas legislature is working through. Currently, there are two bill proposals in the state legislature that would stop illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.

Attorney Daniel Hernandez from Hernandez Law Firm said House Bill 104 and 141 are attempting to negate an existing law.

"House Bill 1403 in 2001 was a bill sponsored by Rich Noreiga, that in essence allowed immigrants without proper documents to enroll in higher education and have residence and pay in-state tuition," Hernandez said.

Beside Texas, there are eight other states that offer this same benefit to undocumented immigrants. Both Texas A&M and Blinn College have students who fall into this category and both schools said they strictly follow the state's guidelines in offering in-state tuition rates.

Blinn College spokesperson, Gena Parsons said the criteria is very explicate.

"State law says they have to have been in the state of Texas at least three years and graduated from a Texas public or private high school," Parsons said. " And once they do apply they also have to sign a contract that says they will apply for citizenship."

Parsons said only four students out of last fall's entire enrollment were undocumented immigrants.

Although illegal immigrants can receive in-state tuition, they are not eligible for federal financial aid.

Attorney Daniel Hernandez said the current law in place benefits the state and the nation as a whole.

"(According to) my understanding, 7,000 students in Texas have taken advantage of this opportunity that means there are 7,000 persons who potentially could be college graduates, 7,000 who are potentially college graduates, engineers, doctors, teachers,or other types of professionals that we are in dire need of."

Now state legislators will decide if that will change. If the bill passes and receives a two-thirds vote the Act will take effect immediately, if it passes without the two-thirds vote it will still take effect but on September 1, 2007.