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Archive for Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Immigrant-tuition law under fire

January 18, 2006

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— Kansas lawmakers on Tuesday charged into the politically hot issue of illegal immigration as one legislator sought to repeal a law that gives some noncitizens in-state status to qualify for lower tuition.

Rep. Becky Hutchins, R-Holton, said repeal of the 2004 law was necessary for budget reasons.

"It's about priorities," Hutchins said. In addition, she said, many lawmakers didn't understand the measure when they voted for it.

House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, who vigorously opposed the law, said most people in Kansas don't like it.

"We'll see what happens," he said.

The law allows some illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition if they attended a Kansas high school at least three years and graduated or earned a general educational development certificate in Kansas. Also, they must be seeking legal immigration status.

Supporters of the law said it would help children of illegal immigrants advance to college and become more productive members of society. Opponents said it would reward individuals and families who violated immigration laws.

In-state tuition at Kansas University for a full-time undergraduate is $2,412 per semester and $6,638 for nonresident students.

The law was challenged in federal court by a national group that fights to restrict immigration, and Kris Kobach, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the congressional district that includes eastern Lawrence. Several KU students joined the legal effort to strike the law, but a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last year.

Since taking effect, 37 students were enrolled under the law's provisions in fall 2004 and 221 in fall 2005, according to the Kansas Board of Regents. Most of them - 181- are attending community colleges.

At KU, two students were enrolled under the law in 2004 and four in 2005.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said she would oppose efforts to repeal the law because the students deserved resident status for tuition.

"Many of those students have been in Kansas schools all of their lives," she said.

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