Original URL: http://chronicle.com/daily/2002/11/2002111902n.htm

Virginia Official's Memo Saying Public Colleges Should Not Admit Illegal Immigrants Draws Angry Reaction
The Chronicle of Higher Education, Tuesday, November 19, 2002

A group representing Latinos and new immigrants is furious about a memo from Virginia's attorney general that says illegal immigrants should be denied entry to the state's public colleges. The directive also says that college officials
should notify federal authorities about any such students who are already known to be on their campuses.

During a news conference in Arlington, Va., last week, officials from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund lashed out at Virginia's attorney general, Jerry W. Kilgore, who sent the memo to college officials last September. In it, Mr. Kilgore cited the need to preserve spaces in public colleges for students who are legal residents -- and are taxpayers.

The memo, asserted Mr. Kilgore's spokesman, Tim Murtaugh, was intended only to provide a legal interpretation to those colleges unsure of how to classify their population of students who may be in the country illegally. And it does not carry with it any binding force of law.

"We received a variety of inquiries from public colleges and universities in the state asking us whether illegal immigrants who are enrolled in Virginia's schools should be charged in-state or out-of-state tuition," said Mr. Murtaugh. "Rather than
deal with each inquiry on its own, we just issued one broader statement. ... Illegal immigrants should not be enrolled in public colleges and universities at all."

Representatives of the immigrants' rights group say Mr. Kilgore's interpretation writes off thousands of immigrants who are currently attending the nation's public schools and looking forward to going to college. The group also says that the directive would most seriously penalize students who have already established lives in the United States but lack formal immigration status -- rather than those looking to take advantage of state-funded higher education -- and that it is not justified by any current state or federal law.

"We believe that that recommendation is ... just bad policy and it can result in a process that can lead to serious human and legal rights violations," said Tisha Tallman, regional counsel for the immigrants' rights group. "It also won't be in the colleges' best interests to preclude the best and the brightest from attending their schools."

Ms. Tallman said her group first learned of the attorney general's message a few weeks ago, when it was alerted by a school in Northern Virginia. She also warned that forcing professors to report on students who may or may not lack the
proper documentation to study in the country would fundamentally undermine the trust that is so essential between student and teacher. Mr. Kilgore's memo, she said, suggested that faculty members take the lead in identifying such individuals.

Despite the criticism, Mr. Murtaugh says that the memo reflected the state's obligation to protect the rights of taxpayers. Immigrants seeking higher education in the United States, he added, would be well served by going through formal channels in their quest for citizenship.

"This country is made of generations of immigrants," Mr. Murtaugh said. "But to afford someone else the opportunity to take advantage of the taxpayers' support is a slap in the face to those who have entered this country and gone through the proper processes."

The question of how to categorize illegal immigrants on college campuses is not unique to Virginia. Several states have
adopted policies contrary to that suggested by Mr. Kilgore. California, New York, and Texas have all allowed undocumented aliens access to in-state tuition rates, a practice that the Virginia memo explicitly condemns.


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