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No tuition break for migrants, most say

Published January 13, 2007 12:19 am

Tribune poll shows more than half of Utahns are against in-state rate for undocumented students
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Mike Sizer doesn't want to see undocumented workers ''rewarded'' for illegal behavior, and he is not alone.

Sizer, the chairman of Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement (UFIRE), is strongly supporting a bill in this year's Legislature that would repeal a state law allowing undocumented students who graduate from a Utah high school to pay in-state tuition at the state's nine institutions of higher education.



And while Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. this week said he would "very seriously consider vetoing" the bill, Sizer has the support of the majority of the state, according to a new Salt Lake Tribune poll.

It shows 55 percent of registered voters support repealing the law. However, that number was significantly down from The Tribune's June poll, when 71 percent called for the law's repeal.

Two factors may play into the 16-point shift, said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., which conducted the polls: the media frenzy surrounding immigration issues last summer and the wording of the question.

"Some [of the spike] had to do with the immigration debate, as it was as hot in June as the troop surge is now," Coker said. "Maybe half of it was timing and half was wording, though there's no way to prove that."

The June question did not clarify that students had to earn a Utah diploma, while the January question did.

"The new question puts a little more of a limitation in that the kids who have established themselves in Utah get the in-state tuition," Coker said.

However, John Renteria, president of the Centro Civico Mexicano, said he wouldn't be surprised if the summer rallies and walk-outs supporting immigrant rights "turned people off."

"I don't think there's any doubt that [the demonstrations] had an effect on the whole sentiment regarding illegal immigrants in the country and specifically this legislation," he said. "But these are hard-working families with kids, and we're doing a disservice if they are not getting an education."

Latinos make up roughly 11 percent of the state's population. In the Salt Lake City School District, Latinos comprise about 37 percent of the student body.

In the 2005-06 school year, 182 undocumented students registered for class at Utah state colleges and universities, paying the same rate as residents.

But Sizer sees the law as "blatantly unfair for those people who have played by the rules, and who are struggling to pay for their own tuition bills, to see those who haven't followed the rules are getting special treatment."

Huntsman disagrees, even though the majority of voters supports repeal of the law.

"The governor feels that the law that stands now is appropriate," said spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley. "Education is the path to success, and it would be inappropriate not to allow students who have graduated from Utah high schools [to pay in-state tuition]."

How long someone has been in the country illegally doesn't matter to Sizer, who wants to see children of illegal immigrants go back to their home countries and apply for citizenship legally.

"It sends the wrong signal to those trying to get in legally. This law says if you manage to get in illegally, we'll still get you benefits," he said.

Roskelley says it's "unfortunate that this issue brings ill will against these children who are brought here not of their own will but have done well enough to adapt and graduate from a Utah high school."

smcfarland@sltrib.com or 801-257-8619.

 

 

 

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