Home Opinion Editorials State's 'fairness' solution is to be unfair
State's 'fairness' solution is to be unfair
Proponents of a bill in the Oregon Legislature that would qualify illegal immigrant students for in-state tuition to the state’s public universities argue that charging those students much more expensive out-of-state tuition is not fair.
Specifically, it’s not fair because those students, in many cases, were brought to the U.S. by their parents and had no choice in the matter.
“Have these children broken the law when many were carried into this country in the arms of their mother?” asks Sen. Frank Morse, an Albany Republican. Morse is a sponsor of Senate Bill 742, which the Senate passed 18-11 last week.
Of course it’s not fair.
But neither is it fair for the Legislature, in trying to rectify this injustice, to punish other students who are U.S. citizens and whose parents did not break federal immigration law when they snuck into this country.
Yet those latter students would indeed suffer should SB 742 become law.
If more illegal immigrants are accepted at state universities as a result of the law — and that is, after all, its purpose — then some students who are U.S. citizens probably will be denied admission.
Although SB 742’s goal is indeed a noble one, we can’t support a bill that so blatantly favors one group of students over another — and for a reason that has nothing to do with grades, test scores or some other measurable standard.
Moreover, we don’t believe this legislation is even necessary to achieve that goal.
Rather than artificially choosing the recipients of government beneficence through the power of law, the Legislature should encourage illegal immigrants to seek legal residency, which is the clearest path to success.
As legal residents, immigrant students not only would qualify for in-state tuition — a savings of as much as $18,000 per year — and financial aid, but they would have a much better chance of landing a job once they’ve earned a degree.
SB 742 acknowledges the importance of legal residency — the bill requires students to attest that they’ve applied for such status — but it doesn’t make that status a prerequisite for in-state tuition.
The even more compelling argument against the bill, though, is that illegal immigrants already have access to public higher education in Oregon — access that doesn’t require that they pay the much higher out-of-state tuition.
That access is through community colleges or Eastern Oregon University. EOU, unique among the state’s seven public four-year universities, doesn’t charge higher tuition for non-Oregon students.
Illegal immigrants who apply at either EOU or a community college have the same opportunity as any other student.
That’s a level playing field.
Or, if you dislike cliches, it’s fair.