NASHVILLE, Tennessee–State Representative Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma), joined by more than a dozen conservative state house members, held a press conference Monday to voice their strong opposition to the push by Governor Haslam and the Republican leadership to extent in-state tuition privileges to illegal immigrant students.
“We are standing up because believe the hard-working families and small businesses that make up our great state need an advocate in Nashville who will put them first. We will stand up for the rights of Tennesseans when legislators fail to hear their constituents,” Matheny said.
Tennessee Star cameras were rolling:
The Star has covered the developments surrounding the in-state tuition push closely, from state Senators White and Gardenhire’s repeated bill proposals to the Tennessee Farm Bureau’s outspoken support.
“Today, our goal is to shine the light of truth on a bill that will give in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants. We believe HB 863/SB 1014 is unconstitutional and it will cost Tennessee taxpayers dearly. It will make us a magnet for illegal immigrants – which will further strain our public education system,” Matheny said.
“Our position regarding this bill is simple. Our state cannot afford to subsidize public college tuition for illegal aliens, nor should it. We don’t give in-state tuition to citizens in other states, or even our military veterans. This is a right and privilege afforded to Tennessee citizens,” he said, explaining:
Taxpayers subsidize roughly 50% of the cost for in-state tuition. Depending on the college 25%-75% of this cost is paid for by Tennessee taxpayers. As such, it is a state benefit as defined by US code 1621. Providing this benefit at taxpayer expense to non-citizens lessens and abridges the rights and privileges of Tennesseans.
Our oath of office reads, ‘that I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to me injurious to the people, or consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this state.’
The bill states any student who attends the final two years of public high school and graduates will be eligible. This will lead to an influx of non-citizen students on our education system. Any taxes illegal immigrants pay will not offset the cost of educating their kids, not in high school, and certainly not in college.
The position these kids are in is unenviable. They did not choose to come here and, their parent’s decisions are not their fault. If they truly want the full rights and responsibilities of being an American citizen, they must first take it upon themselves to become a citizen.
Those that grew up here have already received the same benefits and education as our children. Our state –our country has been more than generous with these benefits at a cost to taxpayers.
It’s time to end this two-tiered society in which Americans who work hard, and pay their taxes are pushed to the back of the line behind people who broke the law to come to our country. Tennesseans must show their birth certificate, social security cards, and other forms of ID to prove they are eligible for any benefits. Yet, some legislators think these laws should not apply to illegal immigrants. They are wrong.
The Republican party is the party of low taxes and limited Government. Elected officials would do well to remember this and what the role of government is. Sending Americans students to the back of the line while forcing their parents to pay the tab for illegal immigrants will not be tolerated by Tennesseans.
We cannot support this measure to fill seats at any publicly funded college or university at the expense of Tennesseans and all Americans.
During the q-and-a following Rep. Matheny’s remarks, The Star’s Laura Baigert asked if his group’s opposition is limited only to in-state tuition privileges.
He answered, “I think theoretically they could go to college, but they’re not going to receive the benefits such as in-state tuition. They’re going to have to pay the full ride. They do not deserve in-state tuition; they’re not here legally.”
Rep Matheny was joined by his fellow Conservative Majority Caucus members: Courtney Rogers (R-Goodlettsville ), Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), Roger Kane (R- Knoxville), Jerry Sexton, (R-Bean Station), Sheila Butt (R-Columbia), Terri Lynn Weaver (R- Lancaster), Mary Littleton (R- Dickson), John Crawford (R- Kingsport), Debra Moody (R- Covington), Jay Reedy (R-Erin), David Byrd (R- Waynesboro), John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), Tilman Goins (R-Morristown), Mark Pody (R-Lebanon), Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro), and Micah Van Huss (R- Jonesborough).