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Should illegal immigrants be eligible for in-state tuition?

Whether they should get the same benefits as their high school classmates has become part of the national debate on immigration.

Illegal-immigrant children should be eligible for the same in-state college tuition benefits as their classmates.

There is a significant difference between adult illegal immigrants and those brought here as children by their parents. The children, though technically illegal, are not lawbreakers since they had no say about coming to the United States. (Children of illegal immigrants who are born in the U.S. are automatically American citizens with full rights.)

All high school graduates should have the same opportunities. Limiting access to education has never proven to be a good solution for any country, especially one that prides itself on promoting education as the basis for attaining the American Dream.

Supreme Court rulings already protect the right of children of undocumented immigrants to education in our elementary and high schools. Why not finish the job by allowing them to attend college at the same tuition rates that other in-state high school graduates pay?

This proposal is good business based on the principles of economics. People with more education earn more and spend more, thereby paying more in income and sales taxes. In addition, America needs bilingual nurses, doctors, teachers, lawyers, and police officers.

Demographics indicate that our country will soon need as many students as possible to take the place of retiring baby boomers in the workforce. Simply put, we cannot afford to continue denying these high school graduates the same opportunities others have. By doing so, we would only hurt ourselves.

State Senator DiAnna Schimek
Nebraska State Senate

When I lived in Honduras and Venezuela some 20 years ago, one of the things that struck me was people's admiration for the discipline of American society—that the U.S. is a country where people obey the law and things work.

I believe firmly in the rule of law, and I believe that being a nation of laws is one of the things that make America a great country.

States that give illegal immigrants in-state tuition are an example of the many ways we're moving away from core American values.

First of all, we should not be providing illegal immigrants with a benefit that's not available to American citizens from other states, who are regularly charged higher out-of-state tuition rates.

In New Mexico, in-state tuition covers about one fifth of the actual cost of providing a college education at state schools; the remainder is picked up by taxpayers. Why should taxpayers in New Mexico—or any other state—foot the bill for the education of people who broke the rules and came to the U.S. illegally? Doing so will only encourage more people to come here illegally.

Advocates of providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrants often say that the young students themselves are not to blame for being here illegally. But that's not a reason for changing our laws. People who buy stolen property through no fault of their own don't get to keep it.

Finally, even if states make it easier for illegal immigrants to go to college by making them eligible for in-state tuition, that doesn't mean it will be any easier for them to get good jobs when they graduate. Even with a diploma, they will still be here illegally. What kind of life is that?

State Senator Rod Adair
New Mexico State Senate