Topeka — A key legislator said Thursday he opposes efforts to repeal a state law that allows in-state tuition for some undocumented students.
"That's a nonstarter, I think," state Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, and chairman of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, said of repeal attempts.
Before the committee is a sweeping measure - Senate Bill 458 -that proponents say will reduce the number of illegal immigrants in Kansas. Opponents say the bill is an onerous, unworkable reaction to immigration concerns that should be tackled on the federal level.
Brungardt's committee conducted lengthy hearings on the bill during the past several days and is scheduled to work on the measure next week.
One provision of the bill would repeal a 2004 law that allows the children of some illegal immigrants to pay the same lower tuition rates as legal Kansans at state universities, community colleges and vocational schools. Under the law, the student must have lived in Kansas at least three years, graduated from a Kansas high school, and seek or promise to seek legal status.
Numerous attempts have been made to undo that law since its enactment, but they have all failed. Those opposed to the law say it is giving illegal immigrants an improper benefit.
Brungardt said the law should stand.
"The Senate has voted on that on three different occasions. I don't know why anybody would change their established record on that topic," he said.
In Kansas, 243 students are receiving the in-state tuition under the law, according to the Kansas Board of Regents. Most of those - 193 - are attending community colleges; 46 are at state universities, including 11 at Kansas University; three are at technical schools; and one is at a technical college.
During hearings on the bill, representatives of religious, social service and education groups testified in support of the existing law.
Many said the students are here illegally "through no fault of their own" because their parents brought them here when they were children.
"Why would we want to deprive a young man or woman from the opportunity to develop their skills and abilities so that they will be a productive and contributing member of our society?" asked Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., who also is chairman of the Kansas Catholic Conference.