INDIANAPOLIS — Two years ago, Indiana lawmakers bent on cracking down on illegal immigration passed a law that banned in-state college tuition for children of undocumented workers and resulted in hundreds of students dropping out when they couldn’t afford the much higher out-of-state rates.
Now there is an effort to roll back that law. It’s led by some conservative Republican legislators who see the ban as both unfair to children brought here illegally by their parents and contrary to the state’s effort to produce more college graduates.
“There is not a downside to educating every student, whether they’re undocumented or not,” said Rep. Rebecca Kubacki of Syracuse, the first Hispanic Republican elected to the Indiana General Assembly.
In February, the Republican-controlled state Senate passed legislation, Senate Bill 207, that would allow students who were enrolled in college when the 2011 law took effect to be eligible again for in-state tuition.
Kubacki is sponsoring that bill in the House, where some of her Republican colleagues are working to expand it by amending the legislation to cover more children of undocumented workers who are residents of Indiana. Details of the amendment have yet to be made public, but it’s expected to spark a vigorous debate.
“I never, ever dreamed there would be discussion in the House of expansion [of the bill],” said Republican State Sen. Jean Leising of Oldenburg, who authored Senate Bill 207. “But maybe enough legislators have talked to these kids and heard their plight and struggle.”
Leising kept the parameters of her bill narrow — benefiting only students already enrolled in college when the in-state tuition ban took effect in 2011 — believing it was the only way it would pass. Similar legislation was shot down last year after a fierce lobbying blitz by opponents who saw it as a form of “amnesty” for people here illegally.