Hatch Bill to Allow Illegal Immigrants In-State Tuition Has $90M Federal Cost
Christopher Smith, Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 16
WASHINGTON — Allowing some illegal immigrants to attend college at in-state tuition prices and eventually become lawful U.S. residents would cost federal taxpayers $90 million over the next decade and benefit 46,000 immigrants, congressional budget analysts say.
Federal spending would increase from higher participation in Food Stamp and Medicaid programs, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Utah Republicans Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Cannon are the primary sponsors of Senate and House versions of legislation to repeal a 1996 federal law and give states discretion over whether to offer public education benefits to people who entered the country illegally.
The bills also would allow illegal immigrants who were less than 16 years old at the time of their entry and who have lived in the United States the past five years to adjust their status to “conditional legal permanent resident” provided they meet several good-behavior criteria.
Cannon’s bill has 127 co-sponsors, including Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, but is awaiting a committee hearing nearly a year since its introduction. Hatch’s bill, dubbed the “DREAM Act,” passed out of his Senate Judiciary Committee in October on a bipartisan 16-3 vote, but has yet to be placed on the Senate’s calendar for a vote. There’s not enough support to pass it by unanimous consent, and if the measure is put to floor debate, backers fear the addition of numerous immigration amendments could hurt the bill’s chance of passage.
Hatch has said allowing upstanding illegal immigrants to further their education and legally secure jobs will benefit the nation economically.
“An average immigrant who completes college will earn $13,500 more annually than her counterpart who drops out of high school,” he said before the October committee vote. “As such, the DREAM Act will not only directly improve the quality of life of its beneficiaries, but will also benefit the overall American economy by significantly increasing spending and investment from these immigrants.”
In a report that Hatch filed with the Judiciary Committee last month, the Congressional Budget Office estimated 13,000 children of illegal immigrants would enroll in U.S. colleges next fall if the DREAM Act becomes law this summer, with the number dropping dramatically after 2009.
Although students in the program could not receive public assistance for the first five years, the Congressional Budget Office said they would be eligible for college financial aid while enrolled. However the amount would be “negligible” since the students would not be likely to seek student loans. Most would enroll in community colleges where tuition costs are lower, the analysts said in their report, and “they would be less willing to submit financial aid forms for fear of exposing the presence of other family members who remain undocumented.”
The first participants in the DREAM Act program would be eligible for federal benefits beginning in 2009, with an estimated 6,000 immigrants applying for Food Stamps and 1,000 immigrants receiving Medicaid benefits that year. New Food Stamp participation due to the DREAM Act would cost $30 million from 2004 to 2014 while new Medicaid costs from the program would be $60 million during the same period.