Topeka A law allowing some undocumented immigrants the opportunity to attend higher education institutions at the less expensive resident tuition rate would be repealed under a bill recommended Wednesday by a House committee.
The 12-8 vote by the Federal and State Affairs Committee represented a dramatic turnaround from action last week when the committee defeated the measure on a tie vote.
It also prompted fiery rhetoric about immigration issues in general.
Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita, argued against repealing the 2004 law, saying that the children of immigrants came here through no fault of their own and were simply trying to better their lives. Their parents, he said, were illegally recruited to Kansas by powerful economic interests, such as construction and meatpacking businesses.
"We are simply going around beating the innocent and ignoring the guilty," Dillmore said.
Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, said the proposed repeal was a "despicable" slap at immigrants, many of whom are soldiers fighting for the United States even though they are not citizens.
But Rep. Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said he resented granting the lower tuition to illegal immigrants because as a native of Canada he had to go through the naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen.
After the tie vote last week, House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, an opponent of the tuition break, asked the committee to have another vote.
This time, the repeal was endorsed and sent to the full House for consideration.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius supported the law when it was passed two years ago. She declined to say whether she would veto a measure to repeal it.
But she said during the recent National Governor's Assn. meeting with President Bush that Bush had indicated support for helping the children of immigrants attend institutions of higher education.
"He said, and I agree with him, that punishing children by making education more difficult for talented children of immigrants is probably a lose-lose situation," Sebelius said.
Current state law lets some undocumented immigrants qualify for in-state tuition if they attended a Kansas high school for at least three years and graduated or earned a General Educational Development certificate in Kansas.
Last fall, 221 students enrolled under the law, most of them at community colleges, according to the Kansas Board of Regents.
A full-time undergraduate from Kansas pays $2,412 per semester at Kansas University, compared with $6,638 for out-of-state residents.