- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

RICHMOND — The House yesterday passed a bill that would forbid illegal aliens from attending Virginia colleges, a measure that would put the state at the forefront of immigration reform.

The bill, which passed without debate 67-28, is likely to be rejected by the Senate, which will consider it in the next few weeks. No other states ban illegal aliens from their colleges.

Earlier this week, delegates debated the bill, authored by Delegate Thomas D. Gear, Hampton Republican.

Those in favor of it said the bill is necessary to keep illegals from taking coveted spots at the state’s top schools from those who are here legally. Opponents said the measure unfairly punishes children for their parents’ mistakes and limits their future opportunities.

Andres Tobar, executive director of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center, which works with Hispanic and black day laborers, said the bill sets a bad precedent.

“It would be a major mistake to approve any legislation that would deny access to kids that have been successful in our public schools and who are tomorrow’s leaders,” he said.

Last year, the House passed a similar bill on a 73-23 vote, but the Senate Education and Health Committee rejected it.

Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., Winchester Republican and committee chairman, has said his committee will kill the bill again this year.

“It is the worst possible case of overreach and overkill because it goes against the American dream,” he said.

Last year, Gov. Mark Warner said it was unreasonable to have a blanket ban on illegals attending college.

In 2003, Mr. Warner, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that would have barred illegal aliens from paying in-state tuition at state colleges. He had said the measure would have contributed to anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.

Mr. Warner had proposed an amendment that would have allowed in-state tuition for aliens who can prove that they had graduated from a Virginia high school, lived in the state for five years, and were seeking to legalize their immigration status and whose families have paid state taxes for three years. The state legislature rejected his amendments.

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