(Illegal) Immigrant advocates blast Kilgore

The Associated Press

Update 2015: Mr Kilgore has held no elective office in years.

ARLINGTON, VA. - Immigrant rights organizations criticized state Attorney General Jerry Kilgore's demand that Virginia colleges rid their campuses of any illegal immigrants.

In a memo last month, Kilgore warned the colleges not to enroll illegal immigrants. He also instructed them to report to federal authorities any illegal immigrants they find on campus. Critics said at a news conference Friday that Kilgore's action unfairly penalizes foreign-born children for their parents' decision to come to the United States illegally. They also said it goes beyond any federal or state law by asking educators to act as police potentially in violation of confidentiality policies.

Kilgore staff members countered by saying they are concerned that illegal immigrants could be taking seats at state schools that would otherwise go to U.S. citizens. They also said that since last year's terrorist attacks, all universities carry a greater responsibility to help the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service monitor foreign students. "This is about differentiating between those who obey the law and those who willfully break it," said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Virginia's move comes as many states are taking a dramatically different approach, not only allowing illegal immigrants to enroll in public colleges but also granting them in-state tuition. California, Texas and New York have passed laws to that effect in the last two years. Similar measures are either pending or being drafted in Maryland, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Utah, and Congress is considering legislation encouraging other states to follow suit.

Some lawmaker say excluding the nation's estimated 8 million illegal immigrants from benefits such as health care and higher education only 'threatens the safety and economic well-being of the communities in which they live. Since the Sept. 11,2001, terrorist attacks, that approach has been offset by a competing impulse among many state and federal authorities to curtail illegal immigration.

Among other actions, more than a dozen states have cracked down on driver's license fraud, requiring applicants to provide more extensive proof of their identity and legal residency. Immigrant rights advocates contend that such steps merely victimize otherwise law-abiding drivers and endanger the public by preventing them from getting auto insurance. On Friday, critics offered similar arguments against Kilgore's directive.

Virginia's undocumented students "are the epitome of what we consider the American dream," said Tisha Talhuian, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which organized the news conference. "They've gone to high school here, they're hardworking and high-achieving." In Maryland, Prince George's Community College President Ronald A. Williams has also argued that local communities have as much to gain from illegal immigrants attending college as the immigrants themselves. "They are going to need skills to become taxpayers who are not a burden on society," he said.

However, Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, said expanding college benefits to illegal immigrants encourages more people to come to the United States illegally "It conveys to the world the message that America just isn't serious about its immigration laws," he said. "It's also a slap in the face to the people who play by the rules by waiting for their turn to immigrate in their home countries." Immigrant rights advocates estimate that 50,000 illegal immigrants graduate from U.S. high schools, schools every year. It is unclear how many go on to college.

Update: SB 1037 Tuition, in-state; denied to illegal aliens.
Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.

Summary as passed Senate: (all summaries) In-state tuition; illegal aliens. Establishes that an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible for in-state tuition unless he meets all of the following criteria: (i) he has resided with his parent, guardian, or other person standing in loco parentis while attending a public or private high school in this state; (ii) he has graduated from a public or private high school in Virginia or has received a General Education Development (GED) certificate in Virginia; (iii) he has resided in the Commonwealth for at least three years as of the date he graduated from high school, or one year of residency if a veteran or an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces;

(iv) he has registered as an entering student in an institution of higher education; (v) he has provided an affidavit to the institution stating that he has filed an application to become a permanent resident of the United States and is actively pursuing such permanent residency or will do so as soon as he is eligible; and (vi) he has submitted evidence that he, or in the case of a dependent student, at least one parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis, has filed, unless exempted by state law, Virginia income tax returns for at least three years prior to the date of enrollment. 01/13/09