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November 21, 2012

Immigrant tuition move draws fire

BOSTON — Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and others sought to put the issue of offering in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants into economic terms, while the House’s Republican leadership called for implementation of the new policy on tuition to “be stopped immediately.”

Both Democrats and Republicans this week also used the step taken by Gov. Deval Patrick to look ahead to the legislative session that begins in January, when in-state tuition for a broader class of undocumented immigrants could resurface in a more significant way than in recent years.

Gov. Deval Patrick wrote a letter this week to Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland informing him that young immigrants granted “deferred status” under President Barack Obama new deportation policy should be offered in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Massachusetts.

The administration said it based the decision on the availability of federal work permits to the new class of immigrants, which is one of the 16 ways a student can prove lawful immigrant status in Massachusetts to qualify for the tuition break.

House Minority Brad Jones said that while making higher education affordable to Massachusetts residents is important, the state must be “judicious and fair in how we award such benefits.”

“Governor Patrick’s most recent attempt to usurp the power of the Legislature is cause for concern. Instead of engaging elected officials from both political parties in constructive conversation and debate, he has put his interests, both politically and personally, above those of Massachusetts’ residents,” Jones said in a statement.

Patrick based his decision on the new federal policy started by Obama over the summer with an executive order giving immigrants under 31 who came to the United States before their 16th birthday the opportunity to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. Those approved would be protected from deportation for two years, and allowed to apply for work permits.

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