Tennessee set to offer kids of undocumented migrants tuition benefits



Tennessee is poised to become the second state since President Trump took office to offer in-state college tuition to students whose parents brought them into the United States illegally. Washington, D.C., passed a similar bill earlier this year, while in total, 20 states allow such students to access in-state tuition.

Panels in the House and Senate have already passed the proposal, with another House committee expected to vote on the measure Tuesday, according to news reports. The bill has bipartisan support in Tennessee, a deeply-conservative state that went to Trump during the 2016 presidential election. It's being promoted as a way to improve the state's economy by proponents such as the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, which highlights a looming labor shortage as a reason to think carefully about the work immigrants can provide. Other supporters say kids shouldn't be victimized by choices their parents made.

"I'm all for building the wall and U.S. sovereignty, closing our borders. But we didn't, and now we're damaging innocent people," Rep. Mark White, a sponsor of the bill and a Republican, told the Associated Press. "I'm just trying to protect Tennessee in the long run, because they're here." Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has also endorsed the bill.

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Where the wall already exists along the US-Mexico border
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Where the wall already exists along the US-Mexico border
A gap in the U.S.-Mexico border fence is seen outside Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
U.S. customs and border patrol officers inspect a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
U.S. customs and border patrol officers inspect a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Men talk on a street in the town of Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A U.S. customs and border patrol officer stands at a border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Recent arrivals from Mexico wait to board a greyhound bus in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Highway 82 towards Douglas, Arizona is seen near Sonoita, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Clouds float above the border towns of Nogales, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A sign warning drivers that firearms and ammunition are prohibited in Mexico is seen at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Buildings in Nogales, Mexico (R) are separated by a border fence from Nogales, Arizona, United Sates, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An abandoned car sits off the side of a road near Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A worker makes his way through the water after setting up an irrigation system on an agricultural field, near Calexico, California, U.S. October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An abandoned car sits off the side of a road near Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A church at the Museum of History in Granite is seen in Felicity, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A man drives a tractor plowing a field at sunrise near Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Residential homes are seen next to the fence that borders Mexico, in Douglas, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pedestrians wait to cross the street in Calexico, California, Unites States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The town of Bisbee is seen in Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pedestrians make their way into the the United States from Mexico at the pedestrian border in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A roadside collection of alien dolls and toy UFO saucers is seen next to a roadside residence neat Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A road abruptly ends next to a sign for a cattle ranch near Douglas, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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A man rides a tricycle past a grocery store in a town that borders Mexico, in San Luis Butter, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A U.S. customs and border patrol truck drives past the fence that marks the border between U.S. and Mexico, in Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A truck drives west towards California along highway 8 near Gila Bend, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Electronic items are displayed in a shop window in Calexico, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A residential home is seen in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A fence separates the border towns of Nogales, Mexico (R) and Nogales, Arizona, United Sates, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 20 states offer in-state tuition to unauthorized immigrant students — 16 state legislatures passed such laws, while four state university systems have provided tuition benefits to such students.

"These bills are primarily intended to help children of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents and work hard in school with the hope of going to college but then discover that they face insurmountable obstacles," the National Immigration Law Center [NILC] writes on its website, adding that public colleges and universities are "inconsistent in their treatment of such students."

In March, Tennessee's biggest college system, the Tennessee Board of Regents, backed the legislation that would allow children of undocumented immigrants to receive tuition benefits. "When we do not allow in-state tuition to these undocumented students we really are denying them access," Barbara U. Prescott, a regent from Memphis, told The Tennessean at the time. "They just really cannot pay the out-of-state tuition."

The Tennessee law would impact students who were enrolled at a state high school or home school program for two years. Still, these students wouldn't be able to access federal financial aid or take advantage of state programs that permit students to enroll in technical and community colleges free of charge.

"Tuition equity policies have proven to be a successful investment in the nation's youth, producing economic and social benefits for individuals as well as the state," Tanya Broder, NILC senior staff attorney, told Vocativ in an email Tuesday. "These benefits extend beyond the students directly affected — to their peers, e.g. by reducing high school dropout rates overall. We are excited to see these broadly shared values reinforced in Tennessee this year."

Meanwhile, opponents of the bill have asked why Tennessee taxpayers should be responsible for subsidizing undocumented immigrants. Still, Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, the policy director of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, aired confidence that the bill would pass amid a broad range of support.

"We think that this is a real opportunity to remind people, remind legislators, that even in such a divisive climate we can all come together and agree that educating Tennesseans is important," Sherman-Nikolaus told A.P.

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Day Without Immigrants boycott 2017
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Day Without Immigrants boycott 2017
Demonstrators march during the "Day Without Immigrants" protest in Washington, DC, U.S., February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A restaurant worker photographs passing demonstrators as they march during the "Day Without Immigrants" protest in Washington, DC, U.S., February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Signs are posted for customers of Blue Ribbon, a restaurant, stating that they are closed in solidarity with "A Day Without Immigrants" protests in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
A restaurant on Georgia Avenue is closed in honor of the "Day Without Immigrants" protest in Washington, D.C., U.S. February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
A sign in the window of Ted's Bulletin Restaurant on 14th St proclaims it closed in honor of the "Day Without Immigrants" protest in Washington, D.C., U.S. February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 16: A Vietnamese cafe and a dry cleaning business stand closed in solidarity with the 'A Day Without Immigrants' boycott/strike, February 16, 2017 in New York City. Across the country hundreds of restaurants and eateries are closing for the day to protest President Trump's immigration agenda and to highlight the contributions of immigrants to U.S. business and life. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - FEBRUARY 16: Protesters march in the streets outside the Texas State Capital on 'A Day Without Immigrants' February 16, 2017 in Austin, Texas. The crowd, which grew to well over a thousand participants, marched from the Austin City Hall to the Texas State Capital. Across the country hundreds of restaurants and eateries are closing for the day to protest President Trump's immigration policies and to highlight the contributions of immigrants to U.S. business and life. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 16: A business is closed as Latino immigrants across Philadelphia skip work on Thursday as part of a 'Day Without Immigrants' campaign on February 16, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Many businesses are closed in hope of showing their economic power and protesting Donald Trump's immigration policies. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 16: An exterior view of Morning Glory Diner February 16, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With the support of the owner, the majority of the staff, which is Latino, did not come to work as part of a 'Day Without Immigrants' campaign which is aimed at showing their economic power and protesting Donald Trump's immigration policies. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 16: A sign in the window of the popular Brooklyn restaurant Prime Meats explains their solidarity with the 'A Day Without Immigrants,' boycott/strike on February 16, 2017 in New York, United States. Across the country hundreds of restaurants and eateries are closing for the day to protest President Trump's immigration agenda and to highlight the contributions of immigrants to U.S. business and life. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 16: Morning Glory Diner sits empty February 16, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With the support of the owner, the majority of the staff, which is Latino, did not come to work as part of a 'Day Without Immigrants' campaign which is aimed at showing their economic power and protesting Donald Trump's immigration policies. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)
A sign posted for customers hangs on the window of Blue Ribbon, a restaurant, stating that they are closed in solidarity with "A Day Without Immigrants" protests in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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The post Tennessee Set To Offer Kids Of Undocumented Migrants Tuition Benefits appeared first on Vocativ.

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