- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance is asking lawmakers to approve in-state college tuition for children who graduate from high school in Mississippi after being brought to the U.S. by parents who lack proper immigration documents.

It’s unclear whether there’s a need for any change in state law.

The College Board handbook says in-state tuition is available to any minor who graduates from a Mississippi high school and who has lived in the state at least four years.

MIRA is also requesting that the state issue driver’s licenses to all types of immigrants.

The license request is likely to be met with skepticism in a conservative state where Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has long expressed concern about what he sees as lax enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Democratic Rep. Cecil Brown of Jackson, one of the few legislators who attended the MIRA news conference, said providing in-state tuition would help immigrants’ children improve their education levels and job skills.

“We talk a lot about economic development, we talk a lot about workforce development,” Brown said. “We have a resource in Mississippi that is underdeveloped, it should be developed, a great treasure out there that we need to spend some time and some effort on - and that is the children of undocumented immigrants.”

House Bill 209 says in-state tuition would be extended to immigrants’ children who have been living in the state at least five years.

Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said he’s not familiar with MIRA’s proposals.

“I didn’t attend the press conference,” Gunn said. “I’ve not been presented with any documentation outlining their positions.”

Rep. Jim Evans, D-Jackson, is president of MIRA.

“It doesn’t matter to me whether you came across on the Mayflower or walked across the border last night, you’ve entitled to the same human rights,” Evans said.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus

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