Bill Puts Immigrant Aid on Chopping Block

    In the wake of the state’s $14.5-billion deficit, a state
    assemblyman recently proposed legislation that would provide members of the
    California National Guard with free tuition at state colleges and universities
    while simultaneously repealing legislation that would allow some illegal
    immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition.

    Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) estimated that the cost
    of covering tuitions for all persons serving in the California National Guard
    to be about $3 million.

    “We are the only state in the nation that doesn’t cover our
    national guardsmen,” said Robert Flanigan, a senior consultant for DeVore.
    “These men and women are called upon more than any guard in the nation — they
    fight fires, floods, earthquakes and wars abroad. It’s due time that we
    properly compensate them for their service.”

    DeVore’s bill, titled AB 1758, seeks to repeal AB 540,
    legislation passed in 2001 that granted illegal immigrants eligibility for
    in-state tuition if they graduated from a California
    high school and agreed to legalize their resident status if given the
    opportunity.

    The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated the cost of
    in-state residency waivers, granted primarily to illegal immigrants, to be $117
    million in 2005-06.

    Flanigan said that the annual $3-million cost of covering
    national guardsmen is a wiser allocation of resources, compared to the $117
    million spent on in-state residency waivers for illegal immigrants, especially
    when considering the state’s budget deficit.

    “When we are in a budget deficit and we are cutting vital
    services like Medicare among other things, why aren’t we cutting this?”
    Flanigan said. “This should be the first to go, and as far as investing in our
    state’s future, who is to say these people are going to stay here?”

    Flanigan explained that tying the National Guardsmen issue
    to the costs of funding education for illegal immigrants would put economic
    issues into better perspective for taxpayers and the Democrat-controlled state
    Legislature.

    “The state chooses to reward people who are here illegally
    with $117 million, yet is unable to cover guard members when it only costs $3
    million a year,” he said. “Taxpayers need to ask themselves, ‘Is this a wise
    allocation of our resources? Is this how I want my money to be spent?’”

    Eleanor Roosevelt
    College
    junior Grecia Lima, a
    member of the Migrant Rights Awareness group at UCSD, expressed her concerns
    regarding DeVore’s proposed legislation.

    “The repealing of AB 540 is not the worst part of this law,”
    she said. “It’s the crafting, execution, attention and message that it sends to
    the general public.”

    Lima said that
    passing the bill would send the wrong message to California
    and the rest of the nation regarding the state’s stance on illegal immigration.

    “It questions the fundamental right to education for a
    community that is already disenfranchised, it adds division to the already
    divided American public and it reinforces the dualism of ‘us’ vs. ‘them,’” Lima
    said.

    Lima said that
    illegal immigrants pay sales tax and oftentimes contribute to Social Security
    funds, benefits that they may never be able to reclaim. In fact, recent years
    have seen an increase in Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers — issued to
    individuals obliged to pay taxes but who cannot obtain a Social Security number
    — many of which belong to illegal immigrants.

    “The truth is that by separating the ‘illegal immigrants’
    from the ‘taxpayers’ of our society, we create a dualism and division that is
    easy for people to buy into; the illegal versus the legal, the good versus the
    bad,” Lima said. “I am tired of
    having to explain that the ‘illegal immigrant’ community is human beings. Not
    until our society is able to embrace that idea will we be able to have open
    dialogue about the downfalls and solutions of immigration.”

    Lima said that
    AB 540 primarily impacted the community college system, and even with the
    benefits provided by the bill, high-tier universities like UCSD are not within
    the reach of many first-generation college students.

    “I am sure that the Assemblyman Chuck DeVore has not
    realized the very low fiscal impact that these students actually have since
    waivers of in-state tuition are not only provided for illegal immigrants but
    also for other students,” she said.

    AB 1758 is scheduled to be heard March 4 in the Assembly
    Higher Education Committee.

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