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Wisconsin To Offer In State Tuition To Undocumented Students

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
July 2, 2009

Wisconsin became the eleventh state this week to offer in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrants.

The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that the new provision will be extended to students who have lived in Wisconsin at least three years, graduated from a Wisconsin high school or earned an equivalency degree in the state. An estimated 400 to 650 illegal immigrants graduate annually from Wisconsin high schools, and the new bill will save them about $10,000 a year in tuition at state schools such as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"I really think this gets us back on course with our brightest having more access to education," said State Rep. Pedro Colon, who was quoted in the Sentinel. "It's not a huge scholarship program, but an important step for more access to higher education than we had yesterday."

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, director of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant and worker rights organization, hailed the move. She referred to it as "a historic step forward in recognizing the civil rights of immigrants in the area of education."

The move follows a demonstration held in Washington D.C. last week of about 400 students and supporters of United We Dream, who pushed for Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream ) Act. The bill, which was recently endorsed by the College Board, would allow illegal immigrants to receive a college education and ultimately, permanent citizenship.

The Dream Act was introduced in the House and Senate by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, but was rejected by Senators in 2007 after opponents warned it would encourage illegal immigration.

The Washington Post reports that at the demonstration, students from New York, Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Washington area participated in a mock graduation, marching to "Pomp and Circumstance," and chanting calls to pass the Dream Act.

Fernando Rivera, 18, who plans to attend Virginia Tech in the fall, is an American citizen and attended the event. "A movement is a step-by-step process," he told The Post. "Change is not made from morning to night. You have to make the base for it. And I think we will make the movement work. Perseverance is all we need."

Currently, other states who offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants are Texas, Oklahoma, New York, California, Nebraska, Kansas, Utah, Illinois, New Mexico and Washington.

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