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Tuesday, March 29, 2005 - Page updated at 12:42 a.m.

Oregon eyes tuition break for illegal immigrants

The Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. — A controversial bill that would allow certain students who are not legal citizens to pay in-state tuition at Oregon's seven public universities got a hearing in front of legislators yesterday.

The bill would charge in-state tuition to undocumented students if they have spent three years in an Oregon high school and are working toward U.S. residency.

Supporters said that would prevent children of illegal immigrants from being punished for their parents' actions.

"This bill is about fairness. These young people have paid dues," said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.

But critics said the bill would reward illegal behavior and give an unfair advantage to those who break the law.

"We have a trust that our state Legislature will live by those laws and not pick and choose which laws to obey," said opponent Jim Ludwig, who added that the bill might violate federal laws.

Opponents also argued that the bill would cost money by reducing tuition for illegal residents, but supporters say the students in question would not otherwise be going to college, so the state actually would be making money if they attended school.

Silvio Poot, 20, said his family moved illegally to Portland.

"My dream was to go to high school, and I did it. I'm a senior," Poot said.

Poot works eight hours a day after a full day at high school to support himself and help his family. He wants to attend college and said this bill would help him and others in his situation.

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"My future and the future of many students is in your hands," Poot told the Senate Education Committee.

Out-of-state tuition at Oregon's public universities is about $14,000 per year, while in-state tuition is about one-third that amount.

Mike Forest, a Salem resident whose son is struggling to pay for college, said he viewed the bill as entirely unfair. "You're asking me to subsidize education when I can't afford it for my own kids?" he asked legislators.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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