By: Karen Lees
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) reports that the burden of illegal immigration on taxpayers in Tennessee for both state and local expenditures jumped from $285 million in 2007 to $547 million in 2013, according to a FAIR 2013 study.
To add to that burden, proposed legislation that would grant eligibility for illegal aliens to receive in-state tuition is being considered this session by legislators at the Tennessee State Capitol.
In most cases, the discount for in-state tuition is roughly 50%, leaving Tennessee taxpayers with half the cost of tuition for each illegal student.
Senator Todd Gardenhire’s SB 0635 & SB 1014 and Representative Mark White’s HB 0660 & HB 0863 seek to abdicate the legislature’s delegated authority to a Board of Regents or other un-elected body governing Tennessee’s post secondary schools. With slumping attendance rates, the decision left to un-elected boards to fill empty seats in the classroom will take priority over compliance with federal immigration law and public safety.
The summary for SB0635 states:
This bill authorizes the governing body of each public institution of higher education to determine the qualifications that students must possess to be eligible for payment of in-state tuition and fees. All students who are not eligible for in-state tuition must pay the out-of-state tuition and fees set by the governing body.
Go to capitol.tn.gov for details.
To heap even more on the taxpayers’ backs, Senator Jim Tracy (R) amended Sen. Gardenhire’s similar bill, SB1014 to include students in ALL of Tennessee’s eight surrounding states within 100 miles of the TN border. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee last week 7-2 and is now headed for the Finance Ways and Means Committee. The seven “Yes” votes were Crowe (R), Dickerson (R), Gardenhire (R), Gresham (R), Haile (R), Tate (D), and Tracy (R). The two Senators voting “No” were Hensley (R) and Kelsey (R).
Watch video of the Senate Education Committee of Wednesday, March 22:
The proposed legislation goes against deliberately worded Federal immigration law targeting this exact type of state legislation, signed by President Bill Clinton. It also violates a TN state statute. Such policies encourage illegal immigration, are unfair to American citizens from other states, and will force taxpayers to fund the education of illegal aliens.
1623 of IIRIRA federal law states:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizens or national is such a resident.
Immigration is delegated solely to the authority of the Federal government. See Article I, section 8 of the Constitution.
Other states that have similar laws are now facing lawsuits for violating the IIRIRA statute. The most frequent grievance is that out-of-state American citizens are unfairly denied the same benefits granted to illegal aliens. In Virginia and Maryland, out-of-state students were actually shredding their social security cards in protest. Taxpaying parents were equally outraged.
With the Trump administration’s tough stance on illegal immigration and Attorney General Sessions’ resolute statement concerning sanctuary jurisdictions on Monday, all indications are that the Justice Department will choose to aggressively pursue the issue of whether states are allowed to continue violating federal law by attracting illegal aliens with in-state tuition. AG Sessions made it clear when he said, “I strongly urge our nation’s states, cities, and counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to our citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and to rethink these policies.”
Sen. Gardenhire (R) and Rep. White’s (R) illegal bills run contrary to President Trump’s stated priority to solve the nation’s overwhelming illegal immigration problem. By the way, have these legislators forgotten the #1 motivating factor that won Trump the Presidency? Americans, especially in red states like Tennessee, are highly energized by this issue.
This legislation will create an automatic “sanctuary policy” on college campuses, attracting criminal aliens looking for cover among the “undocumented” in Tennessee’s post secondary schools. (What better place for an illegal alien drug dealer to blend in and conduct business under cover than a college campus community?) As the word indicates, “undocumented” means that the necessary documentation for a student to qualify as “legal” cannot be verified by federal standards. But, “legal” for the purpose of awarding the benefit of in-state tuition at taxpayer’s expense will be pushed through with tortured language and logic by our Legislature if Tennesseans do not stop them.
A Heritage Foundation Immigration Report describes exactly how states have proposed to circumvent federal law:
To avoid IIRIRA’s mandate that in-state tuition be determined “on the basis of residence within a State,” some state lawmakers have created alternative criteria through which students might qualify for in-state tuition. Such alternative criteria are intended to act as a substitute for actual residence, which, in turn, creates the patina of compliance with the federal statute: Since residence is not at issue, there is, so these states argue, no conflict between federal and state law. In reality, however, the states are targeting illegal aliens for in-state tuition.
Sen. Gardenhire and Rep. White’s legislation circumvents federal law and the peoples’ right of representation by passing the decision-making buck to the Board of Regents or another unelected governing body. What is the possible motivation for knowingly violating federal law other than to gain more government control over taxpayer dollars?
Judicial Watch sued the state of California on behalf of a resident and taxpayer on the grounds that the state Legislature cannot hand over its authority in matters concerning federal immigration law – the same basis as the proposed Tennessee legislation. The Daily Signal reports:
The issue there is not whether the California Legislature can authorize in-state tuition to illegal immigrants…but whether the University of California Board of Regents, an independent body from the state Legislature, can lawfully authorize in-state tuition for illegal immigrants at all University of California campuses in direct violation of federal law.
Significantly, Tennessee recently became the first state to sue the federal government regarding the Refugee Resettlement program, represented at no charge by the Thomas More Law Center. According to Senator Mark Norris (R) of Collierville, the government is “forcing Tennessee to expend funds that have not been lawfully appropriated.” With Tennessee’s significant refugee population, shouldn’t Sen. Gardenhire and Rep. White include refugee students in their legislation to be fair and satisfy the requirements of federal law? If so, shouldn’t they also include all U.S. citizens in the legislation as the law demands? If we can’t afford to be fair – and we can’t – it is ridiculous to offer this only to non-citizens.
Tennessee legislators are evading federal immigration law and making TN a cash magnet for illegal aliens on the one hand, while at the same time, asserting Xth Amendment authority by their rightful refusal to fund the federal refugee program with the other hand.
In other words, to justify the in-state tuition argument, Tennessee is jeopardizing the success of their Xth Amendment court case with enough twisted logic to give us all whiplash.
Perhaps the real question should be this: Why are so many legislators disguising themselves as conservatives with the R brand by their name in order to get elected? It would seem we really have a super-majority of Democrats who haven’t a clue how to follow the Republican platform of smaller, fiscally responsible, less intrusive government.
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Karen Lees is a Tennessee native; tracing her family lineage back to those who fought for our nation’s freedom in the Revolutionary War. A student of American history, Mrs. Lees actively supports citizen engagement in limiting the size and scope of central government, free market economics, and strict adherence to Divinely inspired Constitutional principles.