Legislation Would Make College Affordable For Children Of Undocumented Immigrants

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Last week, President Obama issued an executive order that gives young people who were brought into the country as young children and have lived here all of their lives some protection against deportation. Now a couple of Ohio Senators want to take that a step further in Ohio. In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, Democratic State Senator Charleta Tavares explains her legislation to make college more affordable for children of undocumented immigrants.

TAVARES: "It’s called the Tuition Equity Act, which will give more students here in Ohio, those who have grown up here in Ohio, the chance to achieve the American dream."

INGLES: "How would this work?"

TAVARES: "Basically it would allow those students who have come into the U.S. with their parents, who have been here for a number of years, who have gone to our schools, who are under 30 years of age, the opportunity to have in-state tuition."

INGLES: "Isn’t this something that’s kind of addressed in the federal Dream Act proposal?"

TAVARES: "Partially. In that the Homeland Security agents would not prioritize young people for deportation. However, it would not deal with the issue of in-state tuition. And Congress, in 1996, gave states the authority to make the decision whether or not to offer in-state tuition to the children of unauthorized immigrants. And so we can exercise our power right now by helping young people become productive members of society and we can help them maximize their educational opportunities. So we are basically, with this legislation, authorizing as Congress gave us the authority to do, the ability of those children to get in-state tuition."

INGLES: "Why should Ohio do this though?"

TAVARES: "It’s for multiple reasons. First of all, these young people study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their hearts and minds and they should not be penalized for actions taken by their parents. You know we talk about the brain drain in Ohio and these are young people who’ve grown up in Ohio and they should have the opportunity, as Ohio residents, to get the in-state tuition. It can be very sizable the difference between in-state tuition and out-of-state tuition. And that’s why we believe it’s going to impact the numbers of young people who are going to be able to go to college. You know this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Red and blue states such as Texas and California have passed such legislation. Right now, there are 10 states that have passed tuition equity laws."

INGLES: "How many students per year fall into this category that could be affected by this?"

TAVARES: "You know I don’t have the numbers. I’ll have to get that from the Department of Education. That’s a good point. We do know that there are lots of young people that are currently in our schools today that will graduate or have graduated from high school, that want to go on to college. Many young people are impacted by the cost of tuition. And if it’s going to impact a child from going to college simply because there is a difference in the tuition cost, we should mitigate that. Again, these are young people who have gone to our primary and secondary schools and have followed the rules and want to go on to college to share their skills and talents."

Senator Tavares says this legislation is not being floated to draw partisan lines between Democrats and Republicans on this issue. She notes lawmakers in conservative states have backed plans like this in the past.

The Ohio legislature is out of session for the summer so if this bill is to pass, it would have to do so at the end of this year, after the November election.

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