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Should illegal immigrants gain legal status if they go to college?

Published: Monday, Feb. 14 2011 10:15 a.m. MST

Dr. Theresa Martinez (center left) from the University of Utah talks with a group of students gathered on State Street during a "Teach In" demonstration in favor of the Dream Act Monday, September 20, 2010.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

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In Obama's State of the Union address last month, he took on the issue of illegal immigration, saying Congress should work together on coming up with laws to enforce and protect U.S. borders and to address the undocumented workers.

But he also voiced his support of the DREAM Act, which was shot down in December but was set to allow illegal immigrant students who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives to be eligible for citizenship if they completed a college degree or two years of military service. According to The Hill, Democrats plan on reintroducing the bill this session.

"Let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation," Obama said in his State of the Union address. He also told Congress that the legislative failure to pass the Dream act was a big disappointment, The Hill article stated this morning.

Yet this topic has stirred quite a debate among the states. Some wonder if illegal students should be taking up seats in the college classroom; others wonder if they should be allowed to pay in-state tuition.

Just last week, the New York Times wrote about how thousands of college students declared their illegal status during the nationwide campaign for the Dream Act last summer. (This act was sponsored by none other than Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.) Now these students, like one named Maricela Aguilar, who has a full-tuition scholarship to a private college in Milwaukee, fear deportation. They also have little hope of anything like the Dream Act passing.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia lawmakers are considering banning all illegal immigrants from attending public colleges. Georgia's State Board of Regents already voted in October to ban illegal immigrants from attending Georgia's top public colleges next fall. Virginia is also considering such a bill and is actually considering 30 different bills regarding illegal immigration — one of which would track the number of students enrolled in public schools either without a birth certificate or who are taking classes in English as a second language

Other states are considering bills that would not give state resident tuition to those with illegal status.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, 10 states have laws offering in-state tuition benefits to undocumented students – California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

But Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska and Indiana are considering disallowing it.

Yet, according to a poll taken in December, 54 percent of Americans agreed with the Dream act. And a January Gallup poll found that 64 percent of Americans say the problem of illegal immigration is extremely or very important for Congress to deal with this year.

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