In-State Tuition For Illegal Immigrants Fails in House Committee

Tennessee Star


A Tennessee bill that would have offered in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants died in a House committee Tuesday morning, effectively ending its path forward this legislative session.

The Education Administration and Planning Committee shot down the bill in a close and emotional 6-7 vote.

The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) and has been sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga). Both are Republicans.

“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.”

Tennessee StarA young woman from Knoxville told the committee that she was brought to the U.S. at such a young age that her earliest memories are of life in East Tennessee. She said her dream has been to attend the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. After she spoke, Rep. Johnnie Turner (D-Memphis) said she could empathize with her and likened denying in-state tuition to illegal immigrants to the racial discrimination she faced as an African-American during her younger years. She referred to illegal immigrants as “my Hispanic brothers and sisters” and said that Drive to 55, the state’s program to boost graduation rates from postsecondary schools, “didn’t say anywhere we were going to discriminate against anybody.”

Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) said the bill “has nothing to do with immigration. It has to do with education.” Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) began to talk about a high school in her district with a significant Hispanic population, but looking like she was about to sob, said she wouldn’t speak after all.

Legislators in support of the bill said it makes little sense to offer illegal immigrants a K-12 education only to then make attending college a burden by requiring them to pay out-of-state tuition. Schools at the K-12 level are bound by a 1982 Supreme Court ruling to give children a free public education regardless of immigration status.

The legislators criticized politicians in Washington, D.C., for putting states in a difficult position by their inaction on immigration issues, but said Tennessee’s reputation would suffer if the bill did not pass. At least 18 states offer in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

Opponents of such legislation say it rewards breaking immigration laws and creates further problems in trying to get illegal immigration under control.



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8 Thoughts to “In-State Tuition For Illegal Immigrants Fails in House Committee”

  1. […] bill this year that would have granted in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students, HB863, was voted down in committee in a 7-6 vote. This bill closely tracked the language of his 2015 bill, HB675, that […]

  2. […] of the same talking points as in years past, White’s bill was defeated on a narrow vote of 7 against and 6 in favor on Tuesday. Democrats Raumesh Akbari, Johnnie Turner, John DeBerry and Craig Fitzhugh voted yes, joined by […]

  3. […] failed in the House Education committee Tuesday on a 7-6 vote but Rep. White’s other bill, HB660, looks like it will be the first bill considered by the […]

  4. Ruth Wilson

    Like Rep. Bryan Terry said about this HR 660 coming this morning before the same Committee that voted down this
    WICKED ILLEGAL ALIEN CHILDREN IN-STATE TUITION, yesterday, he referred to this SECOND bill as a “TROJAN HORSE”. This needs to be DEFEATED and this Wicked Scheme Destroyed.
    For God & Country

  5. Dave Vance

    HB0660 in the same committee tomorrow at 9 am will provide in state tuition for illegals as well if not amended. Even with the amendment it would allow un-elected board members unaccountable to the public instead of our elected officials. We need to contact the committee members again on this one too!

  6. Bob

    Thank goodness for the 7 who voted against this outlandish bill. I only wish Representative White would show the same level of concern for Tennessee citizens as he does for illegal aliens. Our elementary and secondary education costs have skyrocketed with the influx of illegal immigrant children who cannot speak English. This in itself burdens our schools with inefficiencies in the instructional process and very costly ESL programs; the sum total of which lends to the poor results exhibited by the public school systems. The subsidizing of in-state tuition for illegals would just be another slap in the face of us citizens.

  7. […] of the same talking points as in years past, White’s bill was defeated on a narrow vote of 7 against and 6 in favor on Tuesday. Democrats Raumesh Akbari, Johnnie Turner, John DeBerry and Craig Fitzhugh voted yes, joined by […]

    1. Bob Williams

      Yes, all for it IF they grant the same thing to ALL VETERANS that have served this nation!