IN Lawmakers Debating In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrants

(Indiana Statehouse Newsroom) -- Indiana lawmakers are considering whether to give in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who have been raised and educated in the Indiana school system.

It's an issue the legislature has been looking at for a long time. Basically, you have a 2011 law that bars undocumented immigrants from getting in-state tuition at public universities. Indiana is one of three states with that kind of law.

Experts could not say how many students in Indiana are undocumented immigrants, but we do know this: even if they've lived in the Hoosier State most of their life, they are paying tuition at public universities as if they're from out of state. The difference can be substantial -- around $20,000 a year.

“It's devastating for them,” said Angela Adams, with Adams Immigration Law LLC.

She said many of these folks cannot go to college as a result, which is not fair, because many have come to the United States at young ages with their parents.

“Oftentimes, they find out really late in high school or even college that they're even undocumented,” she said.

So they made their case to state lawmakers at a summer study committee hearing this week.

“It's something we definitely have to look at,” said Rep. Dale DeVon, a Republican from Granger. “...We need to look at the pros and cons behind it.”

Adams and state lawmakers said if there's a bill presented, those qualifying should be law-abiding and long-time Hoosier residents.

“We don't want someone to just move in, and in a matter of 12 months, you can get in state tuition,” said Sen. Dennis Kruse, a Republican from Auburn, and the chair of the education committee that met this week.  

Adams said this discussion could intensify, because President Trump could reverse a President Obama executive order known as DACA, which protects undocumented immigrants who meet a range of criteria.

She said for now they tend to be eligible for in-state tuition rates.

If you're wondering why undocumented immigrants don't just become U.S. citizens, she said there's a reason.

“If they left the country to fix their status, they would not be able to come back because they would be subject to a bar, an exclusion. It's legally impossible for many of those kids to obtain lawful immigration status.”

Sen. Kruse said he hopes the committee gets more information about how many students could benefit from a potential law change, before recommendations are made later this year.

The focus is on college students because a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allows for all students, no matter their immigration status, to get education through high school.

(This story was originally published on August 31, 2017)


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