For the Virginians...
Dec 19, 2002
Kilgore's policies criticized
Immigrant groups seek college access
BY PAUL BRADLEY
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
ARLINGTON - Furious with Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore's efforts to hinder illegal immigrants from attending state colleges, immigrant advocates are planning to fight back when the General Assembly convenes in Richmond next month. [get ready, folks]
Yesterday, during a forum on Kilgore's initiatives, representatives of immigrant groups said the attorney general's proposals ignore the hurdles that children of illegal immigrants face in becoming American citizens.
The forum drew about 100 people to the Arlington Education Center.
By seeking to exclude undocumented students from state-funded schools, Kilgore thwarts efforts by Republican colleagues to help the children of immigrant parents, his critics added.
"We are talking about children who have done nothing wrong, who came here with their parents, who in many cases have lived nearly all their lives in Virginia," said Tisha Tallman, counsel to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Earlier this week, Kilgore announced he will submit legislation to clarify that illegal aliens are ineligible for in-state tuition rates at state-funded colleges and universities.
The reduced rates can amount to a savings of $6,000 a year, officials said.
Yesterday, Del. Karen L. Darner, D-Arlington, said she will introduce a proposal to compete with Kilgore's. Her dis- trict is about 40 percent Hispanic.
She said her legislation would put into law Virginia's past practice of allowing undocumented students who live here to pay reduced in-state tuition rates. It would mirror similar laws enacted in New York, Utah, California and Texas, she said.[*]
"At a time when other states are recognizing the value of educating all their students, we here in Virginia are facing another form of discrimination," she said.
Earlier in the year, Kilgore's office issued a memorandum urging college presidents to deny admission to undocumented students and to report undocumented students to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"As a matter of policy, we just don't think it's too much to ask that people obey the laws of society before they take advantage of what that society has to offer," said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh.
"To move people who have not followed the law in front of those who have is offensive."
Yesterday's forum was held in part to put a human face on those who would be affected by changes in how illegal immigrants are treated by higher education institutions in Virginia.
Far from being freeloaders or criminals, the vast majority entered the country illegally as small children with their parents, immigrant advocates said.
They have attended Virginia public schools and earned grades good enough to be admitted to college. They speak English and consider themselves Americans, speakers said.
But because their parents came here illegally, the path to citizenship is impeded by sometimes contradictory immigration laws, the advocates said.
For example, before an immigrant becomes a citizen, he must first be a lawful permanent resident for five years. To obtain a permanent resident visa - commonly called a green card - an immigrant must be sponsored by either a family member who is a citizen, or by an employer.
But obtaining a green card is difficult for undocumented students. That's because under immigration law, any person who has been in the country illegally for as little as six months is barred from receiving a visa and subject to being deported.
"A lot of people believe it's just a matter of students not having the will to become citizens, and that's just not so," said Samuel McTyre, chairman of the Immigrant Educational Rights Coalition.
Some congressmen have begun to recognize the barriers facing immigrant students who are undocumented because of actions of their parents.
U.S. Rep. Christopher B. Cannon, R-Utah, sponsored legislation last year that would have allowed some undocumented students to become lawful permanent residents. They would have to be under age 21, be enrolled in the seventh grade or above, reside in the United States for at least five years and demonstrate good moral character.
Though Cannon's legislation was unsuccessful, he plans to try again next year.
"Many of these students have received scholarships and been recruited by colleges and universities, but they have little hope of achieving their goals," Cannon said.
"We should provide a track for these students to obtain legal status so they can pursue their higher education without uncertainty hanging over their heads."
Murtaugh said Kilgore is aware of the federal efforts, but they would not affect his initiatives in Virginia.
"We just want people to obey the law," he said.
Contact Paul Bradley at (703) 548-8758 or firstname.lastname@example.org
* These Democrats are going to kill us with their handouts. Those of us who pay the taxes cannot keep this up!
Two stories in today's WP:
Fairfax Schools Target Crowding: Seven New Facilities, Renovations Proposed