Undocumented students are urging lawmakers to grant them in-state tuition at Pennsylvania’s 18 state-owned and state-supported universities.
As legal residents pay taxes that help subsidize state schools, so too do undocumented immigrants such as 25-year-old Carina Ambartsoumian.
Her parents came to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union in 1993.She says her family never attained refugee status after the newly independent Ukraine wouldn’t recognize their papers.
“Even though my parents and I have valid Social Security numbers and the ability to work and pay taxes in the United States and therefore Pennsylvania, the United States has denied us status,” Ambartsoumian said.
Fernanda Marroquin is with Dream Activist, a Philadelphia-based group advocating for undocumented students. Her parents brought her to the United State from Peru in 2000. She had to take time off school to afford community college classes.
“Undocumented youth are forced to pay international rates without any financial help. So I paid about $1,000 per class, plus the cost of books.,” said Marroquin, 23.
At the Community College of Philadelphia, the typical cost of a three-credit course is less than $550.
Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster County, says four members of his caucus now support his plan, including the Senate Majority Leader, as well as several Democrats.
He says Pennsylvanians brought to the U.S. illegally as children have to pay as much as two and a half times the tuition rates of others who attend the same schools.
“To add an additional layer of difficulty, traditional student loans are denied them because of their immigration status,” he said. “For many deserving high school graduates, this means forgoing college altogether and accepting that the key to their potential is forever lost.”
But the measure is likely to encounter stiff opposition in the House. The chamber’s GOP spokesman says his caucus believes such a measure would encourage illegal immigration.
“We fully support legal immigration, but we do not support people breaking the law,” said Steve Miskin. “And, in a sense what this is, you’re subsidizing and incentivizing people breaking the law.
Miskin also questions where the money would come for in-state tuition, which is subsidized with state funding at the state-owned and state-supported universities.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 12 states have laws providing for in-state tuition for immigrant students, including Texas, New York, and Maryland.