Education Subcommittee Passes In-State Tuition for Illegals Bill That Dismantles Public Benefits Law on Voice Vote with No Discussion

The Education Subcommittee of the Tennessee House of Representatives passed State Rep. Mark White’s (R-Memphis)  bill granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students in Tennessee on a voice vote Tuesday afternoon.

Mark White - Education SubcommitteeWith the exception of State Rep. Dawn White’s (R-Murfreesboro) strongly worded statement opposing White’s bill, no discussion was had by the subcommittee before they passed the bill on a voice vote.

Bill sponsor State Rep. Mark White (no relation to State Rep. Dawn White), who chairs the Education Subcommittee, opted to move his bill up from number thirty-five on the agenda to the first one voted on by the subcommittee.

White’s bill, HB2429, is his fourth attempt to give illegal immigrant students access to taxpayer subsidized in-state tuition. To do this, White’s bill dismantles state law by removing reduced college tuition from Tennessee’s definition of “state or local public benefit.

Stating her opposition to the bill, State Rep. Dawn White noted the high fiscal impact from illegal immigration on Tennessee taxpayers estimated to be $793 million in 2017. She also referenced the magnetizing effect that offering the reduced college tuition would have on Tennessee, a point worth noting since none of Tennessee’s border states offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.

Among the states that have passed legislation providing for the tuition benefit, some have limited it to illegal immigrants who have been granted deferred deportation under the Obama DACA program even though their illegal immigration status remains unchanged.

Illegal Immigrant Students line the halls waiting for the Education SubcommitteeAdvocates for illegal immigrant rights see the in-state tuition bills as a way to mark time convinced Congress will provide a form of legal status and a path to citizenship for the “DREAMER” population.

State Rep. Mark White and State Sen. Todd Gardenhire’s 2015 in-state tuition bill that failed to pass, applied only to DACA grantees. Their current bill, however, is much broader and applies to any illegal immigrant residing in Tennessee for three years and who graduates from a Tennessee high school, home school or obtains a GED.

A 2015 decision from the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the proposed expansion of DACA (and the DAPA program) which strongly suggests that the remaining DACA program will be invalidated. Tennessee was the last state to join 25 other states in the lawsuit challenging the expanded DACA. However, after meeting with advocates for illegal immigrant rights Attorney General Herb Slattery withdrew the state from the suit.

In September 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was terminating the DACA program but with a 6-month delay allowing time for Congress to address the issue. To date, Congress has taken no action despite a generous offer of terms from President Trump.

Demonstrators listen for instructions for Education Subcommittee hearingCourts have issued conflicting opinions as to whether the Trump administration could end the DACA program. A California federal court blocked the administration’s plans for the program while a federal judge in Maryland held that the President has the right to end the program. It is likely the controversy will reach the U.S. Supreme Court especially if Congress remains stalled on the issue. In the meantime, DACA grantees are able to renew their two-year work permits and temporary deferred deportation status.

Tennessee legislators supporting the in-state tuition bill claim that college-educated workers earn more and will therefore, pay more in taxes. However, without legal immigration status, or a renewed work permit for as long as DACA survives, the illegal immigrants who are the intended beneficiaries of the White/Gardenhire bills, will not be able to work legally in Tennessee.

In 2011, Tennessee enacted the “Tennessee Lawful Employment Act” in an effort to decrease the availability of jobs for illegal aliens in the state. The law provides employers a variety of ways, including accessing the federal electronic database called “E-verify,” to determine whether a job applicant is authorized to legally work in the U.S.

The bill passed today by the Education Subcommittee gives all illegal immigrant students including non-DACA illegal immigrant students who are unlikely to have work authorization, access to in-state tuition.

White’s bill creates an express exemption from Tennessee’s law for what constitutes a “state or local public benefit,” and likely sets a precedent for the next General Assembly to legislate access for illegal aliens to other public benefits such as an exemption from the E-verify law or access to the Tennessee Promise last dollar scholarship.

The bill now goes on to the full Education Committee for consideration.

Several states that have passed in-state tuition laws or what White and Gardenhire have variously called “tuition equity” and “tuition opportunity,” have made financial assistance available to illegal immigrants.

The in-state tuition bill debate has pitted U.S. citizens against illegal immigrant who have already received the benefit of a free K-12 education. Legislators in Tennessee who have supported the White/Gardenhire bills in the past have made that very point – that the state has already invested public dollars in these students so helping them go to college can eventually result in a return on that investment.

But a 2016 policy paper issued by the New Jersey Policy Perspective “think tank,” titled Access to Financial Aid is Essential to Give Undocumented New Jerseyans a Better Shot at a College Education, says that illegal immigrants still can’t afford the reduced in-state college tuition available to them in New Jersey so now they need access to state financial aid.

White and Gardenhire have argued that illegal immigrant students in Tennessee must have access to in-state tuition because they can’t afford the higher out-of-state tuition rates but have never suggested that the in-state tuition rate without state financial assistance, would be the stopping point.

Last year Sen. Gardenhire argued that allowing illegal immigrant students to pay the lower in-state tuition rate would help fill empty seats at Tennessee’s colleges. Gardenhire also told The Tennessee Star that “[t]here has to be a vacancy at the school before they can be admitted.” None of the in-state tuition bills filed by Gardenhire and White require illegal immigrants to wait for a seat not otherwise awarded to a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant.

Some states have regretted their decision to pass in-state tuition laws for illegal immigrants. Wisconsin repealed its in-state tuition law in 2011 while Texas, Florida, Nebraska and Kansas have unsuccessfully tried to repeal their laws.

Last year Governor Haslam supported the efforts of illegal immigrant advocates to secure the in-state tuition benefit because he said “it was the right thing to do” and that he hoped to see the bill revived. This year the Governor’s former chief of staff, Mark Cate is helping to ferry the bill to the Governor’s desk.

Tennessee Star polling of likely Republican primary voters opposed to providing taxpayer subsidized in-state college tuition to illegal immigrant students increased between June to December 2017, from 84 percent to 88 percent–while support has decreased–from 11 percent to 6 percent.






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31 Thoughts to “Education Subcommittee Passes In-State Tuition for Illegals Bill That Dismantles Public Benefits Law on Voice Vote with No Discussion”

  1. […] and HB2429/SB2263), failed in their respective committees. On the last one, even with White abusing his sub-committee chairmanship, he could not strong-arm enough votes to get the bill all the way through the committee […]

  2. bob k

    If La Raza and Mecha are in on this then their funds come from Soros. This fits his leftists motives. People need to get out and vote. The left is already planning massive voter drives and that will include as many illegals voting as they can sneak through.

  3. E. Marshall Buckles

    This year, in the most recent legislative session, Virginia defeated a bill to give in-state tuition to illegal aliens. Tennessee should do the same. I am a native born US Citizen. I was born in Bristol, VA, raised and lived in Bristol TN (1951-1978) and then have lived in central Virginia for years now. If I applied for admission to ETSU(which I attended for a while, during the early ’70s but could not graduate from because I just did not have the money to do so and my parents and ETSU would not help me) or to UT or to any of the other Tennessee public colleges or universities , I would have to pay out of state tuition despite having been raised in Bristol, Tennessee and graduated from high school there. Illegal aliens are there in Tennessee ILLEGALLY. They should not be there at all yet, since they are, they should have to pay out of state tuition because they are NOT legal residents of Tennessee just as I would have to pay out of state tuition because I am not a legal resident of Tennessee. If this bill passes Tennessee may be setting a legal precedent which will result in them not being able to charge out of state tuition to anyone.

  4. Ruth Wilson

    Thanks to the Tennessee Star for the coverage of this Wicked Voice vote. Chairman Mark White tries to hide the “elected” who need to be held accountable for this abominable piece of legislation. Thanks to you all for the details of the travesty that took place in Tenn. House Committee, yesterday.
    This abominable legislation needs to be DEAD ON ARRIVAL at it’s next STOP. Send this wicked legislation to a “Summer Work shop” which I think is the “Legislature Graveyard.” May this subject never be addressed again in Tennessee. If you are here illegally, you need to be DEPORTED as Good Old Immigration Laws, circa 1950, stated. We are done supporting the World and all of it’s inhabitants.
    GET US OUT OF THE UN AND GET THE UN OUT OF AMERICA and that includes all their citizens who are here illegally dispersed amoung our several States.
    For God & Country

    1. Carol P. Heimbach


    1. Rob

      Well TN used to be a decent place to live. I think that I will be moving back to the state where I was born. This is utter nonsense. These people have broken US law and are being rewarded for it. I would like a college degree. Will Tennessee pay for it?

  5. JDM

    This is wrong! Such a decision should not be made without putting it to the general populous for a vote for one, but more importantly – now this beloved state will be incentivising more illegal immigration just for the benefits I support DACA but am strongly against illegal immigration. DACA should be an interim solution/one-time event to handle the current issue but providing benefits to illegal residents only exacerbates the costs further. Apply for a visa, pay the taxes, meet residential requirements, then get the in-state tuition!

  6. Sim

    Politicians have no fear of “Keyboard Warriors”.

    1. Stuart I. Anderson

      Ah yes, but what if the Keyboard Warriors make a list of those irksome politicians who caused them to be warriors in the first place and sent their primary opponents what becomes a significant amount of contributions accompanied by a cover letter explaining why with a copy to the irksome, don’t you think that would convert the Keyboard Warriors to Genuine Warriors? I have dealt with a few politicians and if there is anything incumbents hate is to be challenged in reasonably well funded primaries when they expected to have a free ride. Don’t you think Sim that after only a few such primaries word would get around the legislature that “immigration” was, at least in Tennessee, the third-rail of politics so even the most painfully sanctimonious members would think twice before they touched it again?

    2. Karen Bracken

      AMEN. All talk and absolutely NO ACTION from the public.

  7. Bill E.

    Makes you wonder if these rhinos who are in bed with the democrats are trying to throw the mid term elections knowing that true conservatives will not conform to this or other liberal stunts. Maybe through these orchestraded scharades the dems are able to get the house and senate back.You also must ask where the money trail leads because there’s no doubt these politicians are being bought and paid for. If we reward those who break the law, we may as well go ahead, strike a match and burn the constitution. It’s merely a punch line in the political arena these days. My question is, how can you look in the mirror each day, not to mention accept money from hard working tax payers to pay your salaries while you heap more financial burdens upon them. Thirty pieces of silver was Judas’s price, how much more will yours be to betray the country?

  8. Donna Locke

    Chris, you are doing a good job on this and related issues. Thanks for providing a real balance to the La Raza mouthpieces in Nashville.

  9. Donna Locke

    The road to disaster is so often paved with good intentions. We need actual law-and-order conservatives in control of this state.

  10. lb

    EVERY vote should be a public ON THE RECORD vote–no more “voice voting” garbage. That being said–WHY is this guy obsessed with illegals, WHO is funding this and how much are they paying him?? He is like a broken record on this issue–where are his Constituents? Honestly, TN is the pinkest/purplest “Red” State I have ever seen

  11. Harry G Allen

    If you apply for instate tuition as an illegal alien you cannot double dip by having the state pay your tuition. I paid my son’s tuition room and board and all other necessary items through 5 years of college. The first year was here and got no reduction or consideration from a State School, I sent him out of state which is a private college that cost less than half of what the costs were here in state. No special considerations.

  12. Wolf Woman

    Haslam, who’s actually a democrat but against abortion
    La Raza Randy Boyd, who gave many pesos to La Raza
    Eddie Smith, a sleazy Haslam brown-noser
    Mark White, a useless rhino –
    all show no consideration for the citizens of Tennessee, whom they pretend to represent. These ignorant fools are led around by the nose by TIRRC who’s supported by every socialist lefty open border, globalist in the U.S. including the sinister George Soros.

    Obviously these politicians don’t respect the law of the land, are eager to curry the favor of Soros lobbyists and thumb their noses at us the “little people” who have to pay for all these privileged entitlements for people who don’t belong here. These politicians are pitiful specimens of the human race and a disgrace to the state of Tennessee.

  13. Stuart I. Anderson

    These are the member of the House Education Administration and Planning Committee. Anyone look familiar? Want to e-mail a message to them?

  14. Papa

    As soon as I read this article I emailed my state representative. It’s time for this nonsense to stop!
    As stated by Tennessee Star, illegals cost the taxpayers of Tennessee $793M($315 per household) in 2017. More candy will only draw more flies!

  15. Dee

    Someone please refresh my memory. This HB2429 has been passed by the subcommittee. Where does it go next? Will “We the People” have an opportunity to have a voice in the passage (or not) of this proposed “we’ll cram it down your throat whether you like it or not” piece of legislation?

    1. Stuart I. Anderson

      I believe it next goes to the full House Education Administration and Planning Committee.

      Your most immediate “opportunity” exists if you are fortunate enough to have your State House representative sit on this committee in which case you can let him/her know how you feel. The next “opportunity” for all of us will occur if this bill and/or its companion Senate Bill SB2263 survives to make it up to the full House (and Senate) to let your representative/state senator know how you feel.

      Perhaps our most important opportunity in the long run will lie if we make a note as to exactly which Republicans vote in favor of these bills, see who has a primary opponent this August and send the most promising of these opponents our most generous contribution with a cover letter (cc: the offending Republican representative/senator) explaining our motivation.

      1. Dee

        Thank you, Stuart. I believe we all need to take some action of some sort. And, if it were not for The Tennessee Star, I don’t think I would have known what this committee and this chairman were up to.

  16. Amanda kroger

    If a person or fanily comes in to this country without proper documentation, then said persons have entered a country illegally… then said persons have broken the law… they are criminals, and criminals do NOT get free college education or lower cost education…. period. If I brome the law I would be in jail… why are not illegals?

  17. ron stone

    I had pretty much decided not vote Repub. Randy Boyd with his stealth campaign continuously running is say nothing commercial while hiding his true position on illegals tells me he thinks i am an idiot. Now this from a Republican dominated legislature on a voice vote to hide their identity seals it for me. Since i will not vote for the Dem i will sit it out. Maybe vote for an Independent if he respects the LEGAL TN residents who elects them. Have been lectured about not voting. My feeling is that voting for the lesser of 2 evils is still voting for evil. Not again. Never.

    1. Stuart I. Anderson

      Say it isn’t so Ron!!! Don’t you see, we need you to, if nothing more, vote AGAINST Randy!. Why don’t you see who has the best chance of beating Randy! and give her your vote then go home. That in and of itself would be one heck of a good day’s work because it’s ANYBODY BUT BOYD!

      Of course, while you’re standing there, it would be swell if you live in the Sixth Congressional District if you voted AGAINST Haslam favorite John Rose. Why if you think about it, there may even be a proven conservative on the ballot in a race against an unproven alleged conservative that you may even be able to vote FOR.

  18. Sherrie Orange

    I am so proud of Rep. Dawn White. She stood up for the citizens who are 84% against this bill. Seems the others are only listening to the illegals…not the citizens that elected them. How sad.

  19. Brian McMurphy

    Traitors. We could fill Grassmere with all of the RINOs in this state.

    Lucky for them, its on Nolensville Road.

    Why should someone from Kentucky pay more to attend MTSU than an illegal who just happened to stop here for six months because we’re a sanctuary state under Gov. “Flying” JP Moneybags McDicknose?

  20. Kevin

    So, if I go to any of the countries that these kids in the photo come from, can I get free stuff? Yes! Jail time, maybe the rearrangement of my facial features, and at the very least, a kick in the backside as they throw me out! Yet, I’m expected to pay for their education! REALLY?

    This is absolutely bovine scatology! Time to throw EVERYBODY who votes for this OUT!

  21. 83ragtop50

    This is sickening. Just another slap in the face of us citizens. What on earth is wrong with those elected to represent we citizens? Are they pandering for votes or just plain stupid?

  22. John

    wow! TN has lost their mind … all the R’s must be RINOs these days. It was once a great American state. Now? Not so much !!

  23. Stuart I. Anderson

    Every member of the State House and half the members of the Senate are up for re-election this year. Conservatives simply have to compile a list of Republicans who vote for HB2429/SB2263 and support their opponents in the Republican Primary this August. Nothing like vigorous primary challenges and a few defeats to convince wayward Republicans that attempting to make Tennessee even more attractive for illegal aliens is a great way to endanger a perfectly fine political career.