Massachusetts State Rep-Elect Says In-State Tuition For Illegal Immigrants Is A Priority

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Should illegal immigrants be eligible for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities in Massachusetts?

One state representative-elect, Chelsea city councilor Judith Garcia, says it will be one of her priorities in the upcoming legislative term.

Garcia revealed her take when responding to a Marcela Garcia column in The Boston Globe headlined “Mass. lawmakers should make in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants a priority.”

Judith Garcia quote-tweeted the columnist’s article and expressed her agreement. 

“100%,” she wrote. “Tuition equity was one of my priorities as city councilor and it will be one of my priorities as state rep.”

The city councilor was elected to represent the 11th Suffolk District. It includes Chelsea and parts of Everett (Ward 2, Precincts 1 and 2A). She defeated her Republican opponent and city council colleague Todd Taylor, 72.5 percent to 27.5 percent.

Nineteen states currently allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Liberal advocates have been pushing for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in the Commonwealth for nearly 20 years, but have not yet been successful in their endeavor.

The idea prominently came up twice during Mitt Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts.

The proposal appeared as an amendment to the fiscal year 2005 budget. However, Romney issued a line-item veto of the proposal in April 2004, and the legislature did not try to override his veto.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives rejected the bill 57-97 when it came up for a vote in January 2006. 

Even though the bill has not come up for a vote in 16 years, it remains a political issue in Massachusetts.

This past legislative session, state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain) and state representative Michael Moran (D-Brighton) filed an in-state tuition for illegal immigrants bill (S.823/H.1352). The bill was sent to study in February 2022, killing it for this session. 

Under the proposal, illegal immigrant students who attend three years of high school in Massachusetts and graduate would be eligible for in-state tuition at every Massachusetts public college and university, except for UMass Medical School in Worcester. 

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 2022-2023 school year add up to $15,958 for in-state students and $36,931 for out-of-state students, according to the school’s web site — a difference of almost $21,000.

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

Massachusetts governor-elect Maura Healey expressed support for this kind of proposal in 2019.

“I write to express support for expanding access to our public colleges and universities by making all Massachusetts high school graduates who attended our high schools for at least three years eligible for in-state tuition rates, fees, and state-funded financial aid,” Healey wrote in a letter to the Joint Committee on Higher Education on July 30, 2019. “Meaningful and equitable access to higher education is critically important to success for all of our students, including many immigrant students who have lived in our communities and attended our schools since childhood.”

State Representative Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) is among the chief opponents of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, as NewBostonPost has previously covered

“I’ve heard the testimonies, I’ve heard the stories,” Lombardo said in 2015. “And listen, there’s a human element of this, and you’d be remiss not to appreciate the impact on the individuals’ lives. Just the same, you can’t ignore the struggles of those families who are here legally. My preference is to give preference to the legal residents and taxpayers.”

Garcia could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday this week. 


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