Some Massachusetts Democratic Lawmakers Want To Give In-State Tuition To Illegal Immigrants

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How much should illegal immigrants who live in Massachusetts pay to go to a public college in the state?

The same as U.S. citizens who live here, say some members of the Massachusetts Legislature.

A pair of bills in the legislature (S.823, H.1352) hope to achieve that.  The bills would give in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants who have attended a Massachusetts high school for at least three years and either graduated or obtained a general equivalency degree. The primary sponsors of the legislation are state Representative Michael Moran (D-Brighton) and state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain).

These in-state rates tend to be far cheaper than the out-of-state rates that illegal immigrants in theory have to pay now to attend college. At UMass Boston, for example, mandatory fees and tuition for the 2021-2022 school year add up to $14,697 for instate students and $35,159 for out-of-state students. Meanwhile, Fitchburg State University will charge $970 for tuition for in-state students and $7,050 for out-of-state students, as State House News Service reports.

As of 2018, there were about 13,000 illegal immigrant children under 17 in K-12 public schools in Massachusetts, according to the report.

The state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education held a hearing on the proposal on Tuesday, June 8.

During the hearing, Newton resident Henry Barbaro spoke out against the bill. He said that it would encourage more illegal immigration and is unfair to people who came here legally.

“Why would anyone go through the bother of legally immigrating to Massachusetts when they can sidestep the process and gain the same benefits?” Barbaro said.

State Representative Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) opposes it, as well. He has filed a bill (H.1348) to explicitly prohibit illegal immigrants from getting in-state tuition.

One supporter who spoke in favor of the bill at the hearing was UMass Boston Chancellor Marcelo Suarez-Orozco.

“They’re often, though not always, the first generation to go to college. They usually come from low-income families and hold multiple family responsibilities. They are not eligible for any kind of federal financial aid, and there are very limited scholarship opportunities available for them,” Suarez-Orozco said.

“These students come up through our educational system and have worked hard to move on to college,” he later added. “They value education and often offer an untold potential to our commonwealth. An act that affords them the same financial relief and the opportunity for tuition equity with their peers will go a long way to eliminating some of the negative consequences our unauthorized immigrant youth students face day in and day out.”

Another supporter is Amy Grunder, director of legislative affairs for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, who called giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants “pragmatic.”

“We know or should know that these young people are fully integrated into our commonwealth and they’re not going anywhere,” Grunder said. “We do not benefit from excluding talented, motivated young people from higher education.”

Efforts to provide illegal immigrants with in-state tuition in Massachusetts date back nearly 20 years.

In 2004, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney capitalized on his line item veto power and rejected a budget amendment to provide in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. And two years later, the Massachusetts House of Representatives rejected a bill 57-97 that would have provided illegal immigrants with in-state tuition. 


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