GOSHEN — State Sen. Carlin Yoder received a few nods and some clapping from the crowd at Saturday’s Third House meeting, many of them educators, after addressing a bill that would reduce college tuition to in-state rates for undocumented immigrants attending state colleges as of 2011.
Yoder and State Rep. Wes Culver attended Saturday’s meeting, which was moderated by Goshen Chamber of Commerce board member Vince Turner.
Yoder is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 207, which would establish certain exceptions to the requirement that an agency verify that an individual applying for state, local or federal benefits is a U.S. citizen or a qualified immigrant. The bill was created to partially counter House Enrolled Act 1402 , which was enacted in 2011 and prohibits resident tuition to undocumented immigrants.
The meeting, which focused heavily on education, shifted to immigration and then back to education after Bob Schrameyer, director and co-founder of Citizens for Immigration Law Enforcement, asked Yoder for an update on the bill.
The bill was read for the first time and referred to the committee on education and career development on Jan. 7, according to the Indiana General Assembly website.
Yoder reinstated he fully supported the bill.
“We allow (undocumented immigrants) to enroll in college, I think it’s foolish for us not to allow them to finish,” he said. “They are ready and willing to contribute to society.
When Schrameyer asked where will the undocumented immigrants work after they graduate from college, Yoder said “Maybe we should look into that one too.”
Though a different conversation followed, it went back to immigration when Dara Marquez, a student currently enrolled in Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, spoke up.
Marquez, who identified herself as an undocumented immigrant, thanked Yoder for his comments toward Schrameyer, and said she was gathering signatures to show the support from this region toward S.B. 207. So far, she said she has gathered 200 signatures.
“I just want to ask what kind of things we can do locally as students to continue supporting the bill,” she told the state senator.
Yoder, who said he had always been “very strong and hard lined” about immigration, said his attitude changed after learning the stories of some of the immigrants who are college students struggling to pay tuition.
He recalled a conversation he had with a student who was brought from Mexico when she was 6 months old.
“She was as American as I was,” he said. “We sat and we talked a while and she was very emotional about the situation. She knows nobody from Mexico, because all her family is here.”
Yoder continued in a passionate discourse saying that, although he was disappointed with some of that ways the federal government is handling immigration issues, he thinks Indiana can do better by allowing students to continue their education.
“They’re going to contribute to our society. They are going to be good citizens, they are driven, they’re committed, they want to be a part of our country. Instead of... making their lives even more turned upside down, why not extend a helping hand just a little bit here?”
To Marquez, Yoder encouraged her to continue telling her story.
“Because I can’t wait to hear a defense for why you should not finish school.”
Other issues talked about in the meeting included bills on roads and transportation and bills on education and career development, particularly early childhood learning development and technical training.