There may be a context for granting in-state tuition rates at public universities to illegal immigrants who were brought here as children by their parents — and Gov. Deval Patrick made that case to the Legislature last year. But he lost.
Now, the governor has done what far too many leaders do. When they can’t win in the court of public opinion or in the legislative arena, they enact their rejected policies by fiat.
Earlier this week, Patrick notified the state Board of Education that illegal immigrants who obtain work permits under a new federal program and can prove residence in Massachusetts will qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. Previously, illegal immigrants had to pay the higher out-of-state tuition to attend those schools.
In 2004, the Legislature passed a bill to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney. Subsequent attempts to pass such a bill have failed several times, despite Patrick’s urging passage at a legislative hearing last year. And polls taken across the state then and now show the idea has yet to win over a clear majority – or any kind of majority — of Massachusetts residents.
Look, supporters of the measure make all the compassionate and compelling arguments they can muster. These immigrants, brought here illegally as children by their parents, had no say in their families’ decision to break the law. Making it easier for them to obtain higher education likely will make them more productive citizens, who as such likely will be taxpayers rather than benefits recipients.
But it does not change the fact in many residents’ and officials minds that they are here illegally. And our governor, when he cannot get his way through the legislative process, should not take it upon himself to force this kind of rule by decree.
That’s not the kind of government that’s characteristic of America; it’s more like some nations from which these students’ immigrant parents fled.