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Immigration reform? Not in Indiana

The lack of action at the state and federal levels keep Indiana behind the times

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It’s called the “Dream Act.”

Senate Bill 345 would have allowed state colleges and universities to offer in-state resident tuition rates to qualified undocumented immigrants. Currently, Indiana is one of only three states where it is against the law for undocumented immigrants to receive in-state resident tuition rates.

It’s called the “Dream Act” after the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) that was proposed as federal legislation in 2001. The bill, first introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-IL, and Orrin Hatch, R-UT, was designed to carve a path to citizenship for undocumented children raised in America (often referred to as “dreamers”). The legislation would give them credit for good moral standing, positive performance in school and success in college or the armed services. The DREAM Act has been re-introduced several times but has never been approved by Congress. However since that time, many states have passed their own “Dream Acts,” mostly addressing issues of in-state tuition rates and financial aid opportunities for state colleges and universities.

Unfortunately, for this year in Indiana, it looks like the dream may be over.

SB 345’s author, Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, never called the bill for a vote in second reading for eh full Senate to consider, despite the measure passing the Appropriations Committee. She was trying to make sure the 26 votes needed for the measure to pass were all there. “I think one of the worse things that you can do is to ask for a vote when you don’t have the votes,” explained Rogers. “People vote no, and then when [the same bill] comes back the next year, even if they’ve gotten more information, they just hate to go through the trouble of trying to come up with reasons as to why they changed their votes.”

The bill had some bipartisan support. Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, was added as a co-author while the bill was in committee. Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, was added as a co-author after the bill passed out of committee. All three senators worked hard to try and convince their colleagues the bill was something Indiana needed to pass. Members of the Latino caucus also made phone calls to senators to urge them to support the measure. However, the votes weren’t there, so the bill was never called.

In 2013 Rogers submitted the legislation and it received enough support to make it all the way out of the full Senate only to die in the House. Rogers co-authored a similar bill in 2014 with Kenley, Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, and Sen. James Arnold, D-LaPorte, but it never made it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. This year it got that far only to stop before a vote by the full Senate. Rogers says that with each year comes a new group of senators — so the education on the bill starts at the beginning for some. This year was no different with a few new Republican senators sitting in the chamber.

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