State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) is considering another try at getting in-state tuition for illegal aliens, despite a recent Tennessee Star Poll released just before Christmas that shows likely Republican primary voters oppose the proposal by an astounding 88 percent to 6 percent margin.
(See question 12 on page 3 below.)171219 Triton - Dec 2017 TN Star GOP Primary Survey - Topline Results
The Tennessee General Assembly is set to reconvene at noon, January 9, and the Chattanooga-area legislator told the Times Free Press he hasn’t yet “tested the waters” to see if there has been any significant movement by the state’s lawmakers toward granting the significant discounts to would-be students whose legal status is dubious, at best.
One reason for Gardenhire’s hesitation to push for the measure likely stems from the fact that every gubernatorial candidate has come out against the proposal, which he says “surprised” him. “Mark White and I need to sit down and talk about it,” Gardenhire said to the Times Free Press. “So we’ll have to see what the temperature is before we sit down and try to take that on.”
The proposal passed the state Senate on 2015, but failed in the state House by a single vote. Sensing momentum in his favor, Gardenhire – along with his friend and ally, state Representative Mark White – reintroduced the proposal in 2016, where White’s House version failed to pass out of committee after an emotional discussion leading up to the vote.
As The Tennessee Star reported at the time:
“I cannot pass the burden onto the taxpayers of Tennessee,” said Rep. Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro) during a discussion before the vote.
She said Tennessee would become a magnet for illegal immigrant families who would want their children to be able to take advantage of in-state tuition. The influx would create a need for more schools at the K-12 level and raise property taxes at time when some schools already have a number of portable classrooms, she said.
Similar legislation passed in the Senate in 2015 but failed by just one vote in the House.
Rep. Mark White, the House bill sponsor, was overcome with emotion Tuesday and seemed near tears as he asked for support for the bill. He said young people brought to the U.S. through no choice of their own should be eligible for in-state tuition. He said it was “a basic conservative Republican position” to help people who take the initiative to better their lives. Many of the young illegal immigrants are from families of modest means, he said, noting that they would not be eligible for federal loans, the Hope Scholarship or Tennessee Promise.
“They’re not asking for anything,” he said. “We’re not subsidizing them.”
After the proposal’s failure, public opinion against illegal immigrants grew, sparking public outbursts by Gardenhire – specifically against The Star – for using the term ‘illegal immigrant student‘ in its polling in June, 2016:
Stung by the results of the recent Tennessee Star Poll showing 84 percent of likely Republican primary voters oppose providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students, State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), sponsor of two bills that would accomplish precisely that objective, complained on Monday that the poll asked about illegal immigrants rather than “children of undocumented immigrants who are brought to this country when they are very young.”
“The question was worded in such a way to get the result they wanted,” Gardenhire complained to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The Tennessee Star Poll question asked likely Republican voters the following:
“In 2018, the Tennessee General Assembly is expected to reconsider a bill to provide in-state college tuition to illegal immigrant students. Do you support or oppose providing in-state college tuition to illegal immigrant students?”
84 percent of Tennessee likely Republican primary voters disapproved of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. A resounding 68.9 percent strongly disapproved, the poll results showed:
68.9% Strongly Disapproved
15.5% Somewhat Disapproved
5.9% Somewhat Approved
5.2% Strongly Approved
4.5% Not Sure/don’t know
“Gardenhire said that’s misleading,” the Times Free Press reported:
He said “we’re not giving them anything” because the students live in Tennessee and would pay the same tuition as other students who live here.
Gardenhire, however, failed to accurately describe to the Times Free Press the citizenship status of these students who live in Tennessee his bill would aid. They are not American citizens. They are, in fact, illegal aliens.
In the six months between the June 2017 Tennessee Star Poll and the December 2017 Tennessee Star Poll, opposition to in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students among likely Tennessee Republican primary voters has actually increased–from 84 percent to 88 percent–while support has decreased–from 11 percent to 6 percent.