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In-state tuition for immigrants

In a heated hearing last week, students squared off against members of an anti-immigration group over a bill that would allow undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition in Oregon.

Currently, children of undocumented immigrants must pay out-of-state rates at Oregon universities.

“You go to school in Oregon all your life and then you get to college and there’s a big sign that says ‘You’re not welcome. You can’t participate,'” Rep. Billy Dalto (R-Salem), one of the bill’s sponsors, told the House Education Committee.

Senate Bill 10 would allow the children of undocumented immigrants living in Oregon to pay in-state rates at public universities if they have attended high school in Oregon for more than three consecutive years, have received their diploma, and plan to become U.S. citizens or legal residents.

The bill, modeled after similar laws enacted in California and Texas, passed the Oregon Senate 22-8, but has been held up in committee. While the bill isn’t dead, said Dalto, it faces opposition from powerful voices in the legislature. If the bill was ever brought to a vote in the House, Dalto said he was “certain” that it would pass.

Opponents of the bill argue it would reward illegal behavior at the cost of Oregon citizens.

“Why should we sacrifice scarce education funds to help illegal immigrants when citizens and lawful residents need the space in Oregon colleges?” asked Elizabeth van Staaveren, a member of Oregonians for Immigration Reform.

The group’s Web site argues that immigration is fueling population growth beyond supportable levels.

Bill van Ry, also a member of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, warned the bill might trigger a “demographic invasion.”

Dave McDonald, director of enrollment and student services for the Oregon University System, estimated that the bill would likely apply to less than 300 students a year.

“The opposition is coming from a very racist point of view,” said Huy Ong, a PSU student and field organizer for the Oregon Students of Color Coalition (OSCC).

Brenda Sifuentez, co-chair of OSCC and a University of Oregon student, said the strict requirements would prevent immigrants from flocking to Oregon, particularly when California law would allow them to pay in-state tuition after just one year of high school.

Nor would the bill reward illegal behavior, Sifuentez said. “On the contrary, this bill rewards the hard work and dedication of young people who have overcome significant barriers to succeed in high school.”