Educating illegal immigrants

The question of granting in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants for public colleges and universities continues to vex lawmakers.

Should we punish children who, through no fault of their own, landed here when their parents came through back channels? Should we deny these students the ability to learn and lift themselves out of the inevitable low-income cycle they land in? Because they live here shouldn’t they have the same opportunity given their classmates who matriculate at state-subsidized schools?

Or are we rewarding parents who cheat the system, bringing their families here illegally and now tapping taxpayers to pay for their kids’ tuition for a better education than any they’d receive in their home country? Is it fair that an undocumented immigrant pays about $25,000 a year in tuition, room and board at the University of Massachusetts Amherst just because her parents found their way to Framingham while a US citizen born and raised in Virginia cuts a check for $42,000 for the same education at the flagship campus in Western Massachusetts?

A hearing at the State House Wednesday highlighted both sides of the hot button issue, with Democrats looking to expand access to in-state tuition for illegal immigrants while Republicans are seeking to cut off the aid altogether. In 2012, then-Gov. Deval Patrick allowed illegal immigrants who qualified under the federal “deferred action for childhood arrival” status to pay the in-state rate at Massachusetts’s 29 public colleges and universities. The status applied to students who came to the US with their parents when they were under 16 years old, lived here for at least five years, and either graduated from a US high school, received a GED here, or served in the military.

Hundreds of immigrant students, many wearing mortar boards, advocates, and educators packed a hearing of the Joint Committee on Higher Education on two Democratic bills that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition, whether or not they qualified under the federal status, as long as they lived in Massachusetts at least three years and graduated from high school here. The bills would also allow those students to get state financial aid, which they could use at either public or private universities. Even if they qualify for in-state rates, illegal immigrants are not eligible for federal or state financial aid.

The hearing also included testimony from Republican state Rep. Marc Lombardo on his bill to reverse Patrick’s order. Gov. Charlie Baker has said he supports Patrick’s decision to allow in-state rates to those who qualify under the federal guidelines, but said Wednesday he opposes any effort to expand it to all undocumented students who live here illegally.

Efforts to pass similar legislation in true blue Massachusetts have failed since 2002. At least 18 other states in the country, including conservative strongholds such as Texas and Kansas, allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition, while several others are considering legislation. Three other states have passed laws forbidding it. Alabama won’t even allow illegal immigrants to enroll in its community colleges.

In the Bay State, the numbers that are in play are not staggering, as they are in border states such as California, Texas, and Arizona. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation estimates 910 undocumented immigrants graduated from public high schools in the state last year, roughly the size of the combined graduating class of Newton North and Newton South high schools. The watchdog group says estimates allowing them to attend at the in-state rate would bring in about $7 million in new revenue to the schools because most of those students who would register are not enrolled.

But when it comes to illegal immigrants, it’s never been about the numbers. The issue is becoming a flashpoint in the presidential campaign, and the rhetoric will only get more heated.

State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, the Boston-born daughter of Haitian immigrants, is sponsoring one of the bills to open up in-state tuition for all. She says it’s a matter of economic and education equality, one that benefits all of the state. No one, she says, is getting a handout.

“When we talk about the economic vitality of Massachusetts, when we talk about the workforce, these kids are part of it,” she said on Greater Boston. “These kids are not getting extra benefits. They’re getting in on their own merits.”

JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

Hospitals that serve large numbers of uninsured and low-income patients are facing budget cuts in the spending plan approved by the Legislature and sitting on the governor’s desk. (Salem News)

Charlie Baker says he would support a ballot question to raise the cap on charter schools and oppose one to legalize marijuana. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Boston Redevelopment Authority is an utter mess, according to a comprehensive audit of the Boston planning and development agency. (Boston Globe, Boston Herald)

Mayor Marty Walsh is one of 50 mayors worldwide who will meet next week in Rome withPope Francis and attend a papal conference on human trafficking and climate change. (Boston Globe)

OLYMPICS

The proposal for Olympic beach volleyball in the Squantum section of Quincy shows the good and bad of Boston 2024’s planning effort, writes Joanna Weiss. (Boston Globe)

A Boston 2024 Olympics could have a big impact — both positive and negative — on Gillette, whose world headquarters sit in the shadow of the proposed Olympic stadium site. (Boston Globe)

CASINOS

Wynn Resorts on Wednesday filed its latest application for a key environmental permit for its proposed Everett casino, which suggests the Las Vegas company ignored Attorney General Maura Healey’s call on Monday for a new independent traffic study on the project. (CommonWealth)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

George H.W. Bush, the oldest living former US president, falls at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine, and breaks a bone in his neck. (Associated Press)

The US military considers how to integrate transgender soldiers.

ELECTIONS

Filings with the Federal Election Commission shows Hillary Clinton leading the presidential campaign money race with nearly $47 million followed by Sen. Bernie Sanderswith $15.3 million. But the reports don’t include money from the Super PACs supporting each candidate, where Jeb Bush dwarfs all others with $114 million so far, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz with $52 million. (New York Times)

Keller@Large dismisses Donald Trump‘s early poll numbers, saying they represent little more than name recognition. A class action lawsuit in California claims Trump ran a bogus real estate instructional course called Trump University that charged students up to $35,000 to learn land-flipping techniques but did little but enrich the already-rich billionaire. (National Review)

Uber and other app-based companies are upending parts of the US economy, and Republican and Democratic candidates are responding in different ways to the changes taking place. (Governing) An administrative judge in California rules that Uber should pay a $7.3 million fine and be shut down, at least temporarily. (Los Angeles Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Springfield was one of the cities selected to participate in President Obama’s recently announced initiative to promote Internet usage among public housing residents. (MassLive)

Fidelity Charitable says grants from its 75,000 donor-advised funds rose 32 percent to $2.9 billion in the most recent fiscal year. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

EDUCATION

Endicott College in Beverly, like other schools in the area, is hiring trained police officers who will have arrest powers and the potential to carry weapons. (Salem News)

A clerk-magistrate has found no probable cause to issue charges against a Hingham middle school teacher accused of hitting a 14-year-old student. (Patriot Ledger)

HEALTH CARE

The woman who was hit and seriously injured by a broken bat at Fenway Park is now facing a child custody battle with her ex-husband, according to Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson.

Joe Finn of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance and Michael Durkin of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley offer a plan for ending chronic homelessness. (CommonWealth)

A state veterinarian says cases of EEE and West Nile virus should be showing up in the state any time now. (State House News Service)

A video that purports to show an official at a Planned Parenthood office in an unnamed state discussing selling organs of aborted fetuses prompts some Massachusetts anti-abortion legislators to call for an investigation here. (Boston Herald)

TRANSPORTATION

Many states have safe-passing laws that deal with roadway interactions between cars and bicyclists, but Tennessee has come up with a way of enforcing the measures. (Governing)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Regulations to limit carbon emissions by power plants are expected to be even more stringent than initially proposed when the EPA issues the new rules later this summer. (U.S. News & World Report)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

President Obama is launching an all-out effort to reform the criminal justice system, today becoming the first president to visit a federal prison. (New York Times) CommonWealth‘s current issue focuses on the impact of the current system and its effect on ex-offenders trying to resume their lives.

Yvonne Abraham writes about the world of today’s prostitutes, which the Internet has made even more grim than it was in the past. (Boston Globe)

A shocking murder-suicide in Lawrence came after years of domestic violence between the boyfriend and girlfriend. (Eagle-Tribune)

A 21-year-old who has appeared in movies on Broadway in “The Lion King” is facing gun charges in connection with a Tuesday night confrontation with Boston police in Dorchester. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

The Boston Globe is notifying its 65,000 digital customers that it is hiking their subscription fee by 74 percent. The increase brings the cost of a digital subscription to about 99 cents a day. (CommonWealth)

Dan Kennedy compares newspaper apps and explains why they matter. (Media Nation)

The building that formerly housed the Item in Lynn sells at auction for $800,000. (Item)