- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

Once again confronted with large legislative majorities opposed to giving illegal aliens the same privileges as folks who are in the country legally, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner wants to delay consideration of a hot-button issue.

Mr. Warner says he needs more time to study and propose amendments to legislation that would require illegal aliens to pay higher out-of-state tuition rates to attend Virginia colleges and universities. The bill, introduced by Delegate Thelma Drake, Norfolk Republican, passed the House of Delegates several weeks ago by an 88-10 vote and was approved by the Senate yesterday.

Students paying in-state tuition rates save substantial sums of money compared with those including members of military families stationed in Virginia who pay out-of-state tuition rates. For example, a three-credit class at Virginia Tech costs $480 for in-state students and $1,682 for out-of-staters. In the Northern Virginia Community College system, a three-credit class costs $170 for in-state students and $607 to those from out-of-state. Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, a supporter of Mrs. Drake's bill, says that every in-state student at a Virginia college or university costs taxpayers approximately $6,028 per year.

The governor's ponderings notwithstanding, legal residents of the state deserve to pay lower rates than persons residing in Virginia in violation of U.S. law. And it is simply wrong that individuals in this country in violation of the law are able to pay less to attend college in Virginia than the children of active-duty members of the U.S. military.

As we noted in this space last week, Mr. Warner is doing essentially the same thing on legislation that would reform the Old Dominion's notoriously liberal standards for obtaining a driver's license. Current Virginia law permits foreign nationals to renew their licenses without having to prove that they are in the country legally. The House has voted 80-20 in favor of legislation sponsored by Delegate David Albo, Fairfax Republican, which would require that foreign nationals present documents such as a permanent-residency card when they apply for a driver's licenses. The Senate may well follow suit by supporting companion legislation sponsored by Sen. Jay O'Brien, Fairfax Republican.

Notwithstanding the fact that seven of the 19 terrorists who attacked the country on September 11 were carrying Virginia lD cards, Mr. Warner wants to delay state action until after the National Governors Association presents its own proposal, which could take place sometime next month. The governor complains that there is no money in the $20 billion state budget to implement the license proposal, which would cost, at most, $5.6 million.

When you cut through the obfuscations, Mr. Warner is an embattled politician, the head of a state Democratic Party in serious decline. With the state growing increasingly conservative and Republican, the Democrats are desperately seeking to hold together a shrinking political coalition including immigrant-rights advocates who believe that people in this country illegally should be treated as if they were lawfully in the country. It's an untenable position, and these are issues that aren't going away.

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