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Charlie Janssen

Sen. Charlie Janssen

The Legislature's Education Committee has again turned down the quest of a Fremont senator to stop the state's colleges from offering sons and daughters of illegal immigrants in-state tuition.

 

After a 45-minute discussion, the committee on Monday afternoon voted 6-1-1 to kill the bill (LB657) introduced by Sen. Charlie Janssen, said Chairman Greg Adams of York.

 

Janssen said Monday evening in a news release he was disappointed to see the bill not advance to the full Legislature for debate.

 

"Despite the setback, I'm encouraged that the committee at least voted on the bill instead of just holding on to it through the end of the legislative session, as they did last year," he said.

 

At an earlier hearing on the bill, civil rights attorney Shirley Mora James told the Education Committee that she did not agree with Janssen that offering in-state tuition to undocumented students was against federal law.

 

A 2008 letter from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to a North Carolina deputy attorney general said it is up to states to decide whether to admit illegal immigrants to their colleges.

In November, the California Supreme Court ruled in-state tuition for undocumented students did not violate federal law, and did not violate the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment.

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In Nebraska, a Jefferson County district judge dismissed a lawsuit in December that claimed Nebraskans' taxes were being spent illegally for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. The judge ruled plaintiffs should have first gone to the federal government and that they could renew the challenge in state court if the federal government declined to act.

"It doesn't matter what ICE says, it doesn't matter what a lawyer says, and it doesn't matter what the Education Committee says," Janssen said. "This law puts us in violation of Title 8 United States Code Section 1623. By not providing in-state tuition to citizens from other states, we leave our state vulnerable to lawsuits. We as a state set a dangerous precedent when we start picking and choosing which federal laws we choose to ignore."

 

Some testifiers at the bill's hearing read letters from students who didn't want to give their names for fear they could be caught and deported, Janssen said. They talked about the hopes and dreams of the undocumented students.

 

"I can't think of a more cruel way to crush the hopes and dreams of these students by keeping them as nameless, faceless entities permanently relegated to hiding in the shadows, and subjected to a life of underemployment and servitude," he said.

Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com.

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