US anti-alien laws loom

April 21, 2006

As a national debate about illegal immigration rages in the US, several states have moved to stop illegal immigrants from being eligible for favourable tuition-fee rates and from receiving the same financial aid as legal residents who attend public universities. Some states are even considering not letting illegal immigrants attend public universities.

And while two Bills going through Congress would make it easier for certain foreign students to get visas, the state of Florida is considering barring international students from receiving any financial aid towards the cost of higher education and forcing them to leave the country as soon as they graduate.

Proposals to restrict who should be able to study in the US come amid coast-to-coast controversy about who should be able to live in the country.

That dispute was sparked by a Bill passed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to crack down on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country, and simultaneously to strengthen control of the border with Mexico.

Republicans in Colorado plan to introduce a measure that would stop illegal immigrants from receiving the more favourable tuition-fee rates charged to in-state residents at public universities. A similar proposal in Kansas was only narrowly defeated.

Republican legislators in Virginia want to bar illegal immigrants from attending public universities. Virginia would become the first state in the nation to impose such a restriction.

In Florida, a Bill passed by the state's House of Representatives would stop foreign students with legitimate visas from receiving any financial aid to attend a public university and would require them to leave the US on graduation. The Bill is now before the state Senate.

Public universities in California, New York and Texas have been taken to court to stop them from allowing illegal immigrants to pay the lower tuition fees charged to state residents. Suits have been brought by advocacy groups and by students who pay higher rates because they come from out of state.

Nine states allow illegal immigrants to pay discounted tuition fees at public universities, usually if they can prove that they graduated from in-state high schools.

But some foreign students who want to come to the US legally would have an easier time under two Bills being considered by Congress.

Students who wish to study in fields where there is a shortage of US graduates, such as science, technology, engineering or maths, would be eligible.

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