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Oregon Editors Say

Immigration status does matter

State education policy shouldn't wink at those violating federal law

The (Albany) Democrat-Herald

Why have immigration laws if it makes no difference to anyone, especially in the state government and its institutions, whether the laws are observed?

The latest example of state indifference to questions of immigration status is Senate Bill 10, introduced by Senate President Peter Courtney of Salem and passed in the Senate last week. The measure would allow Oregon high school graduates who are children of illegal immigrants to attend state universities without having to pay nonresident tuition. This could make a big difference in terms of money.

In-state tuition and fees run about &

36;4,900 a year, while the price for non-Oregon residents is &

36;16,400. Sen. Frank Morse of Albany argued against the bill, reasoning that allowing people who are not legal residents of the state to pay in-state tuition would go against immigration laws.

Sen. Ted Ferrioli of John Day argued for the measure, noting that it would make university fees consistent with other state laws. He pointed out, for example, that children under 18 are required under Oregon law to attend school, whether or not they or their parents are legal residents in this country.

At present, the university system says students may qualify for resident status if they meet the one-year rule and are in Oregon under any number of immigrant or refugee visas. This reflects the common-sense notion that you can't be a resident for tuition purposes if your status is otherwise illegal. The Courtney bill would abandon that principle.

Another bill pending in the Legislature ' heading in the other direction ' would limit driver's licenses to citizens or legal residents, calling attention to the fact that at present, legal status is not a requirement.

Oregon does not allow its police officers to ask about immigration status, leading to yet another pending bill to fix that provision.

The United States has been a magnet for immigrants, including millions who have arrived without going through the steps the federal government requires for immigration.

It is true that citizenship is a federal and not a state matter. But if Oregon and other states make no attempt to recognize a difference between legal and illegal arrivals, there is no hope of ever getting illegal immigration under control.