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Tennessee scraps proposal to give illegal immigrants in-state tuition

Gov. Bill Haslam delivers his annual State of the State address to the Tennessee Legislature Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

On Tuesday, representatives in the Tennessee State Legislature denied a proposed law that would have granted thousands of illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates to the University of Tennessee school system.

By a vote of 6-7, the legislature failed to approve a proposal that would have granted in-state tuition rates to non-resident illegal alien students who were currently living in Tennessee and met three requirements.

First, the students must have attended a Tennessee high school or GED equivalent for at least two years. Second, the students would need to graduate with a high school Diploma or GED equivalent. Third, the students would need to enroll at at state institution in the UT system to receive the discounted rate.

Supporters of the bill argued that by failing to approve this bill, the Tennessee legislators were denying students the right to pursue higher education.

“I’m a Knoxvillian and a Tennessean,”said Karla Meza Cruz, an illegal alien from Knoxville who testified in favor of the bill. “Since I was five years old, I’ve driven by UT hoping I’d one day be able to enroll. I can’t understand why the legislature won’t let me pay my pay to go to college and follow my dreams.”

Stephanie Teatro, a member of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), echoed Cruz’s sentiments, saying that the legislators were denying students the chance to attend college.

“It is unconscionable that legislators could look these students in the eye and opt to deny them a chance to fulfill their dreams,” said Teatro. “Denying these students a chance to go to college is short-sighted, mean-spirited and a betrayal of our values.”

Both of these arguments are ludicrous, however, as UT already accepts un-documented students who are willing to the same out-of-state tuition rates that other non-residents of Tennessee pay to the universities. Students who are residents of Tennessee pay a lowered in-state rate because they already subsidize the school via state and local taxes. Non-residents of Tennessee (including illegal immigrants living there illegally) do not pay in-state taxes, and should not qualify for a subsidized in-state rate.


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