October 1, 2008

Lawmaker: In-state college tuition for illegal immigrants violates federal law

By PATRICK McGEEpmcgee@star-telegram.com

A former Arlington City Council member turned anti-illegal immigrant crusader in the Texas House is trying to scrap Texas’ college tuition benefits for illegal immigrants.

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, has asked for a Texas attorney general’s opinion on the legality of a Texas law that allows illegal immigrants to receive state financial aid and in-state tuition.

Berman asked for the opinion after a California appellate court ruled Sept. 16 that such college benefits for illegal immigrants in California conflict with federal law.

"If it’s in violation in California, I would assume that we are also in violation here in Texas," Berman said. "I’m hoping to make people realize that we are a nation of laws. We have to obey our laws, and if we’re in violation of federal laws then we have to correct it."

Texas became the first state to offer such college benefits to illegal immigrants in 2001, and at least eight states have followed suit. Efforts in Congress to make federal financial aid available to illegal immigrants have stalled.

Berman served on the Arlington City Council from 1979 to 1985. In the 2007 legislative session he fought for anti-illegal immigration bills that ultimately died under opposition from business interests and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

Berman said he will try again in January by introducing bills that, among other things, would tax money transfers to Mexico and challenge the citizenship of children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrant parents.

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