INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana lawmakers are considering whether to give in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who have been raised and educated in the state school system.
It’s an issue the legislature has been looking at for a long time. Basically, you have a 2011 law that bars undocumented immigrants from getting in-state tuition at public universities. Indiana is one of three states with that kind of law.
Experts could not estimate how many students in Indiana are undocumented immigrants but do know this: even if they’ve lived in the Hoosier State most of their lives, they are paying tuition at public universities as if they’re from out of state. The difference can be substantial, around $20,000 a year.
“It’s devastating for them,” said Angela Adams, with Adams Immigration Law LLC.
She said many of these folks cannot go to college as a result, which is unfair because many have come to the United States at young ages with their parents.
“Oftentimes they find out really late in high school or even college that they’re even undocumented,” she said.
So they made their case to state lawmakers at a summer study committee hearing this week.
“It’s something we definitely have to look at,” said Rep. Dale DeVon, a Republican from Granger. “I think we need to look at the pros and cons behind it.”
Adams and state lawmakers said if a bill is presented, those qualifying should be law-abiding and longtime Hoosier residents.
“We don’t want someone to just move in and in a matter of 12 months, then, OK, you can get in-state tuition,” said Sen. Dennis Kruse, a Republican from Auburn, and the chair of the education committee that met this week.
Adams said this discussion could intensify because President Donald Trump could reverse a President Barack Obama executive order known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects undocumented immigrants who meet a range of criteria.
Adams said for now they tend to be eligible for in-state tuition rates.
If you’re wondering why undocumented immigrants don’t just become U.S. citizens, she said there’s a reason.
“If they left the country to fix their status, they would not be able to come back because they would be subject to a bar, an exclusion. It’s legally impossible for many of those kids to obtain lawful immigration status,” Adams said.
Kruse said he hopes the committee gets more information about how many students could benefit from a potential law change before recommendations are made later this year.
The focus is on college students because a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allows for all students, no matter their immigration status, to get education through high school.