- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2003

Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore said yesterday that Gov. Mark Warner’s veto of legislation requiring illegal aliens to pay out-of-state tuition at state universities is irrelevant because Virginia law already requires schools to charge illegal aliens the higher rate.
   
   “I again remind our colleges and universities that this legislation merely sought to clarify in the Code of Virginia what is already contained in state and federal law,” said Mr. Kilgore, a Republican. “Illegal aliens are unable to establish legal residency or the intent to create a permanent domicile. They therefore remain ineligible for in-state tuition benefits.”
   
   Mr. Warner, a Democrat, yesterday acknowledged Mr. Kilgore’s previous statements and said he would not take part in political posturing. “I will not attach my signature to legislation which has no substantive effect and is designed solely to score political points and divide people,” he said.
   
   Delegate Thelma Drake, who sponsored the bill, said she was disappointed by Mr. Warner’s veto.
   
   “I am very disappointed and confused by the governor’s actions,” said Mrs. Drake, Norfolk Republican. “It doesn’t make any sense to me why he would veto it.”
   
   The legislation was an attempt to clarify state and federal law. At the request of college and university administrators, Mr. Kilgore in September issued an opinion explaining how illegal aliens should be treated with regard to admission and tuition. Several colleges were confused by the opinion, and the bill was submitted to the General Assembly. The session ended in February.
   
   The Fairfax Chamber of Commerce had lobbied Mr. Warner to veto the measure, saying it would have a negative effect on commerce and development in the region.
   
   William D. Lecos, the chamber’s president, yesterday praised the governor’s decision.
   
   “Education and economic advancement are the cornerstones of the American dream,” he said. “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.”
   
   Mrs. Drake said she was not sure if she would reintroduce a similar bill next year. But she said she was disappointed at the message Mr. Warner sent by vetoing the bill.
   
   “We are encouraging people to get an education at taxpayer expense, when as illegal aliens they might not legally be able to have jobs once they graduate, and then we have spent all that money,” she said.
   
   Between 75 and 150 students, most of whom attend Northern Virginia Community College, would have been affected by the measure.
   
   The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can be significant. For example, a three-credit class at Virginia Tech costs in-state residents $480.24; out-of-state residents pay $1,682.49. The Northern Virginia Community College system charges in-state residents $169.69 for each three-credit class; out-of-state residents pay $607.41.
   
   During the session, lawmakers in both chambers overwhelmingly passed the measure. Mr. Warner, however, 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.
   
   “My amendment was designed to expand opportunity to deserving students, allowing them to live the American Dream,” Mr. Warner said yesterday.
   
   Mr. Kilgore had recommended that lawmakers reject Mr. Warner’s amendments. During a one-day special session last 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 Mr. Warner, and not the Senate, for consideration.
   
   “This legislation did nothing to fight terrorism or to reduce crime. Indeed, this bill would have done nothing at all, other than score a political victory against illegal aliens and contribute to anti-immigrant sentiment in this country,” Mr. Warner said.
   
   Mr. Kilgore said the bill was about ensuring that everyone had a fair chance at getting a college education, as long as they followed the law.
   
   “Millions upon millions of immigrants have come to our shores and gone through the proper process to improve their lives and the lives of their families,” Mr. Kilgore said. “I continue to believe that it is not too much to ask that people obey the laws of our society before they take advantage of what our society has to offer.”


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