Illegals Bill Set for Vote; College Restrictions 'Overkill,' Senate Foe Says

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Byline: Christina Bellantoni, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

RICHMOND - The House today is expected to pass a bill that would ban illegal aliens from attending state-sponsored colleges, but a powerful state senator who controls the bill's fate said the measure is dead-on-arrival.

The House yesterday gave preliminary approval of the legislation, authored by Delegate Thomas D. Gear, Hampton Republican.

Delegates will take a recorded vote today. Last year, the House passed a similar bill, 72-23, but the Senate Education and Health Committee later rejected the measure.

"It is the worst possible case of overreach and overkill because it goes against the American dream," said Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., Winchester Republican and the committee chairman. "I predict we are going to kill that bill."

Mr. Potts said young students should not be penalized for their parents' mistakes. No states bar illegal aliens from attending state colleges.

Yesterday, the delegates debated Mr. Gear's bill, with one lawmaker calling it "absolutely, totally illogical."

Mr. Gear said the bill is necessary so illegals don't take coveted spots at the state's top schools.

Delegate John S. Reid, Henrico Republican who sponsored the same bill last year, said premier schools such as University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary already enroll few Virginians.

"As long as we are in a situation where there is limited enrollment, it ought to be limited to people who are not breaking the laws of this country," he said.

The House Education Committee on Monday approved Mr. Gear's bill on a 15-7 vote.

Others opposed the bill.

"I would urge you to support education and training for these [aliens] whether they are here legally or illegally because they are here and we ought to train them," said Delegate James Hardy Dillard II, Fairfax Republican.

Mr. Dillard said the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill because the organization wants skilled laborers. The Chamber of Commerce is the largest in the Washington area, representing more than 650,000 jobs regionwide.

Delegate Lionell Spruill Sr., who is black, reminded lawmakers that they are all immigrants and that perhaps their ancestors came from Europe to the United States illegally. The Chesapeake Democrat also reminded lawmakers that blacks were barred from attending Virginia schools.

"We were born in this country and we couldn't go to the schools," he said. "Don't forget that."

Delegate Robert D. Hull, Falls Church Democrat, said the bill has "too broad a brush," and that it is possible a high school graduate brought to the United States as an infant might not know he or she is here illegally.

The issue of illegal aliens and higher education has come up in Virginia for several years.

Like other states, Virginia has grappled with allowing aliens to pay in-state tuition, but the law requires them to pay out-of-state tuition, which can be three to four times more than the tuition rate Virginia residents pay.

California, Texas, New York and Utah allow illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition.

In 2002, the office of Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, issued a letter to state colleges suggesting that they not admit illegal aliens as a matter of policy, but that each school make its own decision.

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Legislation giving the state's public universities greater autonomy is on its way to the Senate floor.

Without dissent, the Education and Health Committee yesterday endorsed the legislation sponsored by Sens. Thomas K. Norment Jr., James City Republican, and John H. Chichester, Stafford Republican.

The legislation is the result of a proposal by the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and the College of William & Mary to give up some state funding in exchange for more control over finances and operations. …