Ohio House Bill Would Stop Tuition Discounts to Illegal Immigrants

Ohio Representative Matt Lynch (R-Chagrin Falls) and Rep. Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton) explained House Bill 254 (HB 254), their proposal to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition rates, to the House Education Committee in an evening session last week.

Introduced in August by Lynch and co-sponsored by Retherford, HB 254 seeks to undo Attorney General Mike DeWine and Board of Regents Chancellor John Carey’s decision to allow non-citizens who are in the country illegally to receive discounted in-state tuition rates at Ohio’s public colleges and universities.

During his testimony before the Education Committee, Rep. Lynch explained that determination of residency for “tuition surcharge purposes” hinges on whether the individual “has the current legal status to remain permanently in the United States” per Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) Rule 3333-1-10(D)(3).

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — the executive order from President Obama on which DeWine and Carey based their decision — does not confer permanent lawful presence or status to illegal immigrants.

Noting that the state’s rules for determining student residency also define a resident as someone who “is qualified as a resident to vote,” Lynch added that “under no authority has anyone claimed that DACA status enables” illegal immigrants to vote.

Rep. Lynch asserted that current state policy is a result of “contorted logic,” which the legislature should take steps to correct.

Most of the questions after Lynch and Retherford gave their sponsor testimony came from the committee’s liberal members. Rep. Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) wondered whether the bill was needed, asking Lynch and Retherford whether enforcing the state’s rules for tuition subsidies was “really something we have to be so harsh about.”

Lynch said that by giving subsidized tuition rates to illegal immigrants, the state was providing “a greater benefit to those here illegally than those here legally.”

After the hearing, Rep. Lynch told Media Trackers that he felt the Education Committee was receptive to HB 254. He said he believed “they recognize that it’s only fair that persons who are not in this country legally should be given these kinds of benefits.”

Attorney General DeWine and Chancellor Carey implemented the contested policy under pressure from DREAMACTivist LLC, an illegal immigrant advocacy group founded by Prerna Lal and Mohammed Abdollahi in 2007.

The group’s state chapter, DREAMACTivist Ohio, is operated by Kenyon College graduate Marco Saavedra, Cincinnati-area “social justice” activist Alma Diaz-Fisher, and Nick Torres, a former legislative aide to Ohio Senator Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard).

Torres also serves as the deputy director of Ohio Voice, a coalition of left-wing activist organizations which includes NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, ProgressOhio, and union front Jobs with Justice Columbus.

HB 254 will need to receive further hearings before the committee can take a vote on whether to send the bill to the House floor.