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March 26, 2013

HAYDEN: GOP moving stance on immigration?

INDIANAPOLIS — When Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly decided earlier this year to put off a vote on locking the state’s same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution, it sent a signal that GOP leaders were evolving on the issue of marriage equality.

Could they now be ready to evolve — at least a little — on the issue of immigration? 

State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki of Syracuse hopes so. In 2010, Kubacki [whose maiden name is Espinoza] became the first Hispanic Republican elected to the Indiana General Assembly. 

Just a few months later, she voted for a GOP-backed bill that barred the state’s public universities and colleges from granting in-state tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants, no matter how long they’d been living here.  

It’s a vote she now regrets. Defenders of the bill said it would send a message that Indiana would no longer be a “sanctuary” for immigrants who were in the U.S. illegally. But Kubacki came to see the bill as unnecessarily punitive, especially for those students, many brought here as small children, who were forced to drop out of college because they couldn’t afford to pay the tripled cost of out-of-state tuition. 

She’s sponsoring a bill this session that would roll back that 2011 law for students who were enrolled in college when it went into effect, describing it as a “baby step” toward immigration policies that make more sense. 

Some of her GOP colleagues are horrified by the bill, even if they think it’s the fair thing to do. They’ve seen how anything less than a get-tough-on-immigration stance can kill a candidate in a Republican primary.

But Kubacki sees room for movement. She may be right, if you consider how some of the staunchest anti-immigrant Republicans on the national level are changing their discourse. 

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