Christina Bellantoni, Wash. Times, Mar. 5
RICHMOND — A Senate committee yesterday rejected a bill that would have banned illegal immigrants from attending the state’s public colleges and universities.
In a 12-2 vote, the Senate Education and Health Committee rejected the legislation, which the House approved last month in a 71-29 vote.
“It’s hard to pass a bill like this and then tell kids this is the land of opportunity,” said Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax County Democrat, who voted against the bill.
The only senators who voted in favor of the bill were Stephen D. Newman, Lynchburg Republican, and Stephen H. Martin, Chesterfield County Republican.
The bill, authored by Delegate John S. “Jack” Reid, Henrico County Republican, would have required public colleges to turn away illegal immigrants and expel those who are mistakenly enrolled.
Mr. Reid sponsored the bill because he said it’s “not appropriate” for schools to give away slots to people who are in the country illegally, and that those persons take away seats from legal residents.
Robert Shoemaker, with the American Council for Immigration Reform, supported the bill, reminding committee members that several of the September 11 hijackers got driver’s licenses in Virginia.
“Illegal aliens have no rights and should be reported,” he said.
Bob Templin, president of Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), said he opposed the bill and that his school has about 100 students who are in the United States illegally.
“They play by the rules and they’ve demonstrated how they want to contribute to the community,” Mr. Templin said. “I can’t imagine we would want to deny educational opportunities to a single child.”
Mr. Saslaw agreed with Mr. Templin’s sentiments and told the committee that the first serviceman killed in Iraq had once been an illegal immigrant. “We’re going in the wrong direction,” he said. “This bill sends a horrible signal to a whole bunch of kids.”
Before voting against the bill, committee Chairman H. Russell Potts Jr., Clarke County Republican, read a letter he received from his daughter, a Virginia teacher, who urged the committee to reject the legislation.
Other Republicans who voted against the bill were Sens. Frederick M. Quayle of Chesapeake, William C. Mims of Leesburg, Frank M. Ruff of Clarksville, and Harry B. Blevins of Chesapeake.
Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III, Richmond Democrat, said he voted against the bill because he was once denied the right to go to some elementary, middle and high schools and some colleges because he is black.
Other Democrats who voted against the bill were Sens. L. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, Janet D. Howell of Reston, R. Edward Houck of Spotsylvania, John S. Edwards of Roanoke and Mary Margaret Whipple of Arlington.
Earlier in the session, lawmakers rejected a bill, that would have allowed illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition. That bill was authored by Delegate Adam P. Ebbin, Arlington County Democrat.
Illegal immigrants now pay out-of-state tuition.