- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner says he will likely veto legislation today that would prohibit illegal aliens from paying in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.
   “The restriction that we put forward [allowing for some exceptions] was more in line with what other governors across the country have done,” Mr. Warner said yesterday. The bill the state legislature passed earlier this month “would be the most narrowly drawn of any state in the country.”
   Mr. Warner, a Democrat, said he expects to decide on all pieces of legislation, including vetoes, during a series of announcements today. Under state law, the governor has until Friday to sign or veto legislation passed during the one-day special session held April 2.
   Mr. Warner made his comments to The Washington Times outside the WTOP radio studio in the District after appearing on the station’s monthly “Ask the Governor” show.
   During the 2003 General Assembly session, lawmakers in both chambers overwhelmingly passed legislation that would bar illegal aliens from paying in-state tuition at state colleges or universities. Depending on the school, out-of-state tuition can be three to four times more expensive than the rate Virginia residents pay.
   The bill was part of state Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore’s legislative package and was sponsored by Delegate Thelma Drake, Norfolk Republican.
   But Mr. Warner proposed an amendment that would allow in-state tuition for aliens who can prove they have graduated from a Virginia high school, have lived in the state for five years, are seeking to legalize their immigration status and whose families have paid state taxes for three years.
   Noncitizens who have served in the armed forces in Iraq are examples of why the narrow exceptions are needed, Mr. Warner said yesterday. “They are the right approach.”
    Mr. Kilgore had recommended that lawmakers reject Mr. Warner’s amendments. Earlier this month, the House rejected the amendments by a vote of 73-26. Since the bill originated in the House, the chamber voted to send the original legislation back to the governor, and not the Senate for consideration.
   Since the special session, Mr. Warner said many groups have encouraged him to veto the bill.
   “Education and economic advancement are the cornerstones of the American dream,” wrote Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce President William D. Lecos in an open letter to Mr. Warner. “Placing this unreasonable obstacle in the path of students who seek only an education and the opportunity to contribute to our society will do far more harm than good.”
   But Peter Gadiel, president of the Survivors of 9/11 Coalition and an advocate for stricter regulations regarding illegal aliens, said yesterday he was disappointed Mr. Warner was “playing politics.” Mr. Gadiel lost his son, a graduate of Washington and Lee University, in the World Trade Center attacks.
   “This is shortsighted, and it would be done only for his own political advantage. Furthermore, it’s a kick in the teeth to the taxpayers of Virginia,” Mr. Gadiel said. “It will encourage illegal aliens and will send a message they are welcome there.”
   It is not clear what effect Mr. Warner’s actions will have, as the bill’s supporters say state law already bars illegal aliens from receiving the in-state rate.
   “It’s existing law,” Mrs. Drake said after the House reconsidered the measure earlier this month. “If the governor wants to be the only one who does not agree with the attorney general, so be it. If he vetoes it, it does not change underlying Virginia law, which says you cannot give illegal aliens this benefit.”
   At Mr. Kilgore’s request, Mrs. Drake sponsored the legislation after questions arose last fall about an opinion he issued about the rate illegal aliens should pay at state colleges. The goal of the bill was to clarify existing state and federal law, so that college administrators could refer to one law, instead of several, when making decisions.
   “Even if the governor elects to veto the bill, I remind our colleges and universities that illegal aliens are unable to fulfill residency requirements, and are therefore ineligible for in-state tuition rates,” Mr. Kilgore said in a written statement after the April 2 vote.

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