Editorials

Missouri GOP scrambles to do the wrong thing and bar Dreamers from in-state tuition

Even though she can’t vote, Frida Sanchez, 19, beats the streets to encourage others to vote

She is not an American citizen, even though since age 5 the only home Frida Sanchez, 19, has known is Kansas City. Sanchez, a DACA recipient, is working with The Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance to encourage young Latinos to get out the vote.
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She is not an American citizen, even though since age 5 the only home Frida Sanchez, 19, has known is Kansas City. Sanchez, a DACA recipient, is working with The Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance to encourage young Latinos to get out the vote.

We were all set to salute Missouri lawmakers for rethinking and rejecting the short-sighted, small-hearted law that has forced state colleges and universities to charge immigrants who’ve grown up here as much as twice what the kids with whom they went to high school are paying. For a minute there, the state Senate decided that “Dreamers” could no longer be barred from eligibility for in-state tuition.

But no sooner had the twin notions “Good job!” and “Who are you, and what have you done with our Missouri legislators?” formed than we had to rewrite those thought bubbles.

Just hours after agreeing to a compromise that would have lifted the ban on in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, Republicans in Jefferson City heard that some immigrants were going around smiling and knew they had to act fast.

We only wish that were hyperbole, but no, it’s what happened: As The Star’s news story put it, “Normally, after conference committee reports are signed, budget bills are sent to the full chamber for one more up or down vote, with no option for changes. However, after press reports and premature celebration by advocates, Missouri House Republicans, along with anti-immigration groups, mobilized in opposition.”

Before we could laud a moment of clarity and common sense in the General Assembly, a group called United for Missouri warned GOP lawmakers that their votes on the ban would be noted, graded and ballyhooed.

And suddenly, a bill that had “sailed through the Missouri Senate once before” had some members of the Senate’s Conservative Caucus hustling to undo what had just been done.

“I am deeply disappointed in the Missouri Budget Conference committee for supporting education subsidies for illegal aliens,” state Sen. Bob Onder tweeted. “The #Conservative6 are 100% committed to fighting this illegal action. #MAGA.”

These aren’t subsidies, Senator, no matter how many times you say otherwise.

Schools could have lost state funds by defying the ban. (What about their freedom to act in their own best interest, liberty lovers?) And the state has lost revenue by forcing the estimated 7,500 DACA-eligible immigrants in Missouri to pay more, because many of them simply can’t afford the highest rates. With even the state’s flagship struggling with enrollment in recent years, this policy is especially self-destructive.

Since 2015, Missouri schools have been forced to charge immigrants protected under DACA, or Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals, international tuition rates. Dreamers pay taxes here, too, but no matter; our lawmakers want them to take their tuition dollars elsewhere. Since many can’t afford to pay twice what their peers do, that’s what they do.

“They live here. They have grown up here. These kids are as American as anyone else without a piece of paper that says so,” said Democratic state Sen. Jason Holsman, who used to teach young undocumented students in Kansas City public schools and who came up with the all-too-briefly successful compromise. “What they are doing now is going to Kansas or Arkansas or Illinois. They are leaving our state.”

Making sure that unfairness continues is so important to GOP lawmakers that the House ended up voting along straight party lines to reject the whole budget bill.

A college education is “so much better when you work hard for it,” Republican state Rep. Dottie Bailey said, as if immigrants know nothing about hard work. “I wish everybody could have the same opportunity, but the world is not like that.”

Not in Missouri it isn’t.

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