The Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education has recently approved a new policy, effective September 2012, that would grant in-state tuition to illegal alien students who have attended a Rhode Island High School for three years and graduated, or successfully acquired a GED. We believe this to be a total end-run around our state General Assembly, which has repeatedly refused to pass legislation required for this initiative for the last five years.
This new policy, RIILE (Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement) believes, is in violation of a federal law that clearly requires that any state offering in-state tuition to illegal aliens must first pass legislation specifically authorizing that benefit. The U.S. Code 8 USC 1621 ( d ) states: "A state may provide illegal aliens a benefit for which such alien would otherwise be ineligible under subsection (a) of this section only through the enactment of a state law after August 22, 1996, which affirmatively provides for such eligibility."
In RIILE'S opinion, by acting illegally to benefit illegal aliens, an arrogant RIBGHE has completed a circle of crime that embarrasses most Rhode Islanders. Are we really swimming in enough dollars that we can afford to subsidize these college educations? Do we really want to advantage illegal alien students in a way we don't advantage non-Rhode Island Americans? If lawbreakers could fly, the RIBGHE would be an airport.
There are some additional serious concerns RIILE would like the public to be aware of concerning this questionable policy.
1) Illegal alien students are given the benefit, by law, of an education K-12 paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. When these students graduate from high school or acquire their GED, they remain illegal aliens. Therefore, they are not entitled to any further benefits or privileges of U.S. Citizenship, with the exception of emergency medical care.
2) The policy would allow these illegal alien students to attend our state colleges at the reduced in-state tuition rate with just a few additional requirements. The most troubling of which is the signing of an affidavit guaranteeing they will start the process of acquiring U.S. Citizenship, implying that this is possible. However, as illegal aliens they would be prevented under current law from applying for such a process. They would be required, from their country of origin, to become legal alien residents with green cards first. The same would apply to their illegal alien parents.
3) If the policy were in place and the student, due to financial strains, had to "work their way" through college, they would, by current law, be unemployable due to their illegal status. This would put the new policy in the position of encouraging illegal alien employment.
4) Most of the students covered by this policy would be unlikely to afford campus living, consequently requiring them to commute. According to current law, due to their status, they would be ineligible for a Rhode Island driver's license. Thus, they would have to break the law in order to commute to campus via auto.
5) This policy seemingly encourages and condones illegal immigration by not being concerned as to the source of revenue if the illegal alien parents are able to afford to pay in-state tuition. It would indicate that they must have jobs, another violation of current law.
While 12 other states currently provide in-state tuition benefits to illegal aliens, only Rhode Island is attempting to do so without first passing enabling legislation. Previous attempts to pass such legislation have failed and it has recently been reported locally that several of our senators and representatives seriously doubt that any future efforts to pass such legislation would be successful.
Again, It's RIILE'S stance that any in-state tuition benefits provided to illegal aliens would clearly be illegal. We have appealed to the only person whose duty it is to safeguard federal law in Rhode Island. Whether U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha acts on our request remains to be seen.
Terry Gorman is the Executive Director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement.