Topeka — They arrived in the United States as children, accompanying parents who sought a better life.
Now grown and living in Kansas, these offspring of undocumented immigrants want to continue their pursuit of the American dream. But a hurdle is standing in their way.
Because of their parents' illegal status, the students must pay out-of-state tuition rates to attend college in Kansas.
About 65 people packed a House committee Wednesday urging passage of a bill that would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to pay the lower in-state tuition rates.
The bill by state Rep. Sue Storm, D-Overland Park, would allow a student who attended a Kansas high school for three years or more and had either graduated or received a GED certificate, to pay in-state tuition at any postsecondary institution in the state regardless of whether the student was a U.S. citizen.
Storm said it made no sense to treat such students, many of whom have been in the public education system all their lives, any differently than students who are citizens. Helping create a more educated work force was in the best interest of all Kansans, she said.
Several students, teachers, Hispanic advocates and officials called for passage of the bill.
Crystal Sanhueza, a teacher at Newton High School, said she had seen many "educational dreams come to a dead end" because of the higher tuition some of her students face.
Elias Garcia, chairman of the Kansas Democratic Hispanic Caucus, said the state should "eliminate all barriers toward securing a postsecondary education on behalf of all those students who have earned the right to succeed."
Felida Lopez, a Kansas University graduate student, attended the hearing to show her support for the bill.
A U.S. citizen and native of Venezuela, Lopez said, "It's better for this country if they can get an education, no matter where they come from."
State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, predicted the panel would approve the bill.