Richard Piatt Reporting
A bill that would eliminate in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants passed a house committee this morning.
Rep. Glenn Donnelson (R), North Ogden: "What we're doing here is encouraging law breaking. We can't continue to do that."
It is another contentious round of debate at the Capitol. The issue is education. But it is also immigration.
Testimony on this hot button issue was not nearly as emotional as last year, when it died. But those emotions are bound to surface as the bill progresses.
Once again it's the 'rule of law' versus people who believe that the current law is doing the right thing for the children of illegal immigrants who are getting a tuition break, in-state tuition, when they do go to college.
These arguments dominated the two sides of the issue today. It happened up in the capitol in one of the largest hearing rooms. In the end, the house committee did pass the bill, though five legislators did vote no on it.
This is another in a series of battles over undocumented immigrants in this state. Currently there are about 182 students in this so-called "Dream Act Program." That costs the state about $650,000 per year. But keep in mind that's less than a tenth of one percent of the overall education budget. So a lot of people say a relatively small portion of the Higher Ed budget is applying to a question that is really emotional and that not everyone in Utah gets.
Ed Cawley, supports the bill: "Hey, we're in the trenches. It's a case of us versus them in my view. It's the people who want to monger compassion at the expense of the rule of law and equality under the law. I am not a believer that you can interminably tell people that you're sorry and you're going to do whatever you can to help them even though it's against the law."
Theresa Martinez, opposes the bill: "I'm very disappointed. I still hold out hope that we can defeat this in the House, that we can defeat it in the Senate. I'm also pretty disgusted with some of the testimony that was made today that sounded very racist, very xenophobic."
That's how strongly some people feel about this.
Those opposing the bill were some West High School students who carried some signs. They say that they have friends who are affected by the law.
This now goes to the full House for debate there. The fate of it in the full House and of course in the Senate is unknown. The governor says that he supports the Dream Act as it currently exists, however his spokespeople say that he is not taking a position on this current bill.