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Don't Penalize Nation's Legal Residents and Citizens

Location: Washington, DC

Don't penalize nation's legal residents and citizens

Moorpark and Oxnard colleges charge students $20 a credit if they attend a California high school for three years, graduate from a California high school and, otherwise, meet admission requirements. Ventura College students pay $26 a credit.

For the 60 units required for a two-year associate's degree, that's a total of $1,200 to $1,560.

Students illegally in the country also pay that price.

However, a legal resident who spends 11 years in California schools, but whose family moves him out of state for his senior year, will pay $169 more a unit at any of the three Ventura County community colleges—or $10,140 more for a two-year degree.

For students at four-year public colleges and universities, the subsidy comes to about $17,000 a year—or $68,000 for a four-year degree.

One argument regularly offered for giving illegal immigrants a cut-rate, taxpayer-subsidized education is that we shouldn't hold the students responsible for their parents' actions.

If that's true, then why do we punish legal residents for their parents' actions? Why must a citizen or permanent resident pay a $10,140 fine for a two-year degree or a $68,000 fine for a four-year degree because their parents moved them, when illegal immigrants—most of whom are adults themselves—get a pass? This is a matter of fairness and common sense.

The Ventura County Community College District board of trustees had an opportunity to uphold fairness and common sense last month, yet it voted—with one exception and one absence—to reward people who break our laws.

The vote was to support the California Dream Act, which would allow illegal immigrant students to receive financial aid in addition to the subsidized tuition. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rightly vetoed the bill because "it would penalize students here legally by reducing the financial aid they rely on to allow them to go to college and pursue their dreams."

Undeterred, the VCCCD board voted to punish the legal and reward the lawbreakers.

Some misguided members of Congress have also introduced a federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or Dream Act. Rewarding people for illegal activity only encourages more illegal acts.

California offers some of the greatest benefits to illegal immigrants, which is why California is home to an estimated 40 percent of the U.S. illegal population. If California doesn't change its tactics toward illegal immigrants, it will see that percentage climb much higher with all the associated troubles it brings.

California, for example, spends nearly $1 billion a year in Medi-Cal services for an average of 780,000 illegal immigrants a month, over and above emergency health services. California also is one of only 10 states that provides in-state college and university tuition to illegal immigrants.

Rather than encourage people to break the law and punish those who follow our laws, I have introduced a bill in Congress that would bring fairness back to higher education.

The Fairness in Higher Education Act would withhold federal funding to those state schools and private colleges that provide in-state tuition or other financial aid to illegal immigrants. It is one of nine bills I introduced in January designed to discourage—rather than encourage—illegal immigration.

America is the most generous nation in the world. We allow more legal immigrants to move to the United States than any other country. It's what makes our country great.

But immigrants must follow our laws, including coming here legally in the first place, and our governments must uphold those laws, not encourage lawbreakers to circumvent them.

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