SALEM — Pushing back on federal policies on immigration, the Oregon Senate on Monday passed a bill that would give in-state college tuition to noncitizens who have graduated from an Oregon high school.
The bill was designed to address the Trump Administration’s plan to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
However, the bill also offers in-state tuition to noncitizens who never received DACA.
“These children are our children,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, in an emotional speech on the Senate floor Monday. He said children who were brought to the United States by their parents had no choice in the matter and should not be penalized for the rest of their lives.
The Senate passed the bill 17-to-10, with support from 16 Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Alan DeBoer of Ashland. Ten other Senate Republicans voted against the bill.
Under existing law passed in 2013, undocumented students have to apply for an official federal identification document to be eligible for resident tuition at Oregon’s public universities. The removal of DACA makes those documents impossible to obtain. The bill essentially removes the requirement to submit an official federal identification document to receive in-state tuition. Instead, students only have to show that they graduated from an Oregon high school. That mirrors eligibility requirements for U.S. citizens in Oregon.
The bill also makes noncitizens eligible for scholarships, grants and other financial aid from public universities, community colleges and the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, said he opposed the legislation because it reneged on a bipartisan agreement when the 2013 law was passed to make noncitizens eligible to receive in-state tuition but not state financial aid.
If passed by the House and signed by Gov. Kate Brown, the law would take effect immediately.
More than 11,000 Oregonians are DACA recipients.