Undocumented Immigrants, In-State Tuition, And A Tough Call For Republican Lawmakers

    Rep. Richard Floyd made an impassioned plea to colleagues to help undocumented immigrants afford college, but the House Education Subcommittee ended up putting off his proposal until next week. (Photo via capitol.tn.gov)

Rep. Richard Floyd made an impassioned plea to colleagues to help undocumented immigrants afford college, but the House Education Subcommittee ended up putting off his proposal until next week. (Photo via capitol.tn.gov)

Two proposals in the state legislature are testing how far Tennessee Republicans are willing to go in cases involving undocumented immigrants, when it comes to charging in-state tuition to public universities.

The more controversial of the two bills would let undocumented immigrants in Tennessee pay the in-state rate for college, which is thousands cheaper than out-of-state tuition.  It’s a tough issue for Republicans: Some see it as being too nice to people who came to the U.S. illegally.

“This is hard for me!  Let me tell you something—You think I’m not taking heat back in my community about that?” Chattanooga Republican Richard Floyd, the bill’s main backer, made an emotional appeal to colleagues, apparently holding back tears during a House subcommittee meeting Tuesday: “And I’m asking you guys, just do the right thing.”

The education subcommittee postponed Floyd’s bill a week, but another measure is moving forward.  It would allow the children of undocumented immigrants, who were born in the U.S. and are legal citizens, to pay in-state rates for college.

In the Senate, Speaker Ron Ramsey says that idea’s fine by him, but he’s not sure about going further.

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