Immigration advocates urge tuition equality

By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – Immigrant-rights advocates, including Catholic Charities, gathered recently at the State Capitol to meet with Representatives Gregory Holloway, Reecy Dickson, and other legislators to discuss ways of changing state law to allow for undocumented students, protected under the Deferred Action Program, to pay in-state tuition rates.

Representative Holloway, vice chair of the House Universities and Colleges Committees organized the hearing. During the 2014 legislative session House Bill 209, a proposal authored by Representative Reecy Dixon, D-Macon, failed to make it out of the House Education Committee.

Representing Catholic Charities at the hearing were Greg Patin, executive director, Monique Davis, director of Parish Based Ministries, and Teresita Turner, director of the Migrant Support Center.

Patin said Catholic Charities supports the in-state tuition for undocumented students because, “These young people have a lot to offer to our community and to our state.
“They were brought here as young children by their parents and this is the only home they know. To allow them to attend a university paying in-state tuition is the only fair thing to do,” he said.

Adrian Gamboa, an undocumented college student from Biloxi, gave his testimony, saying he pays almost twice what his high school classmates pay in tuition at the Jefferson Davis campus in Gulfport.

Immigration attorney Patricia Ice mentioned that 16 states already have provisions allowing for in-state tuition rates for undocumented students.

At end of the hearing Rep. Holloway said he would consider commissioning a study to see how successful the law has been in those 16 states and what the economic impact on the state would be if a similar bill were to pass in Mississippi.