State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) has taken exception to The Tennessee Star’s polling question which accurately refers to foreign nationals of any age who have entered or been brought into the country without permission as “illegal immigrants.” Gardenhire prefers to use the left’s politically deceptive description of “children of undocumented immigrants who are brought to this country when they are very young.”
“Illegal alien” is the term used in federal immigration statutes and is the term sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2012 immigration case. Open border leftist organizations such as the TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and La Raza, also use “undocumented immigrant” in an effort to “obscure the illegal actions and conduct of those who violate our immigration laws.”
In 2014, after failing to move his in-state tuition bill out of committee, Gardenhire tried for a second time the following year. Working his 2015 bill to grant in-state college tuition to illegal alien students, he never used “illegal” anything, referring instead to the potential beneficiaries as, “certain students,” “best and brightest of this category,” “this segment of the population,” “these people,” “undocumented,” and “Tennessee high school graduates.”
Rep. Mark White, sponsor of the companion House bills, also works hard to avoid any reference to the students’ illegal immigration status using terms like “children in a special situation” and like Gardenhire, has insisted that the students were all brought to Tennessee when they were very young.
The age at which a foreign national illegally enters the U.S. does not change their unlawful immigration status. The 2015 version of the Gardenhire/White bill focused its eligibility criteria on grantees of the Obama Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which required illegal entry into the U.S. DACA status, however, does not change the illegal immigration status.
Failing to pass their bill in 2015, Gardenhire and White removed the DACA criteria from the bill and broadened its applicability to include “unaccompanied alien children,” which also requires illegal entry into the U.S. before turning eighteen. Now Gardenhire and White said the bill would help Governor Haslam achieve his “Drive to 55” education goals by using students without lawful immigration status, to fill vacant higher education seats.
In 2015, Gardenhire told the Senate Education Committee that he took up the issue of in-state tuition for “certain students” after realizing that the Latino population having moved into the Southern states to work, now constituted 18,000 households in his district. In 2017, he lamented to the Education Committee that these students “have to pay more than three times as much as their classmates..” to attend a college or university.
Gardenhire and White are committed to trying again in 2018 to get in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students living in Tennessee, putting into Tennessee law what Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (now running for governor of his state), calls an “insane” policy:
“It’s insane,” Kobach agreed. “I mean, think about it: You’ve got someone who lives in a neighboring state, say Missouri. A kid grows up there, wants to go to Kansas University or Kansas State, pays three times as much in tuition as an illegal alien. It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s against federal law. Congress was trying to stop this way back in the nineties; they passed a law saying no state could do it, but several states did anyway.”
Any Tennessee legislator that votes to pass Gardenhire and White’s 2018 in-state tuition bill will also be voting to violate federal law and the Tennessee “Eligibility Verification for Entitlements Act” (EVEA), law passed in 2012.