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Governor M. Jodi Rell has vetoed a bill that would have allowed children of undocumented workers in Connecticut to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

She pointed out the bill would have required such students to file an application to legalize their immigration status or state that they will file as soon as they are “eligible to do so,” however, Rell felt absent federal reform, many of these students will never become eligible to legalize their status.

“The fact remains, however, that these students and their parents are here illegally and neither sympathy nor good intentions can ameliorate that fact,” Rell said.

But Democratic leaders and proponents of the bill fired back at Rell for the veto. Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn said, “Her arguments against this bill do not reflect its many merits, such as the requirement that any student applying for an in-state tuition rate have been a longtime Connecticut resident, successfully attended and graduated high school here, been accepted at a state college or university of their choice, and promised to apply for U.S. citizenship.”

Barbara Richards, a proponent of the bill and member of Unidad Latina en Acción in New Haven, said, “This is a very sad day for the children who would have been able to attend college if the bill had become law.” She said these children are not eligible for state or federal financial aid and for most of them the cost of out of state tuition is enough to keep them from realizing their dreams. “We need the children in our future workforce,” Richards said.

But Richards remained optimistic. “It was a great effort and I hope it is not over,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said, ““I anticipate this bill will be brought up and passed again next session; I hope at that time we can have another dialogue with the governor on the merits of this bill and convince her of its enormous importance to those who most need it.”

Read Rell’s veto message.

“This is a Governor who claims to care about children and especially about their education.  Last year we did not know her very well, but this year she has made her views quite clear on this and on other important matters.  It is hard to think that for three more years she may continue to block most of the inspiring and humane ideas percolating in the legislature,” Richards said.

But Rell felt this bill does not address the underlying problem that these students face – that they are not legal residents of the United States. “The requirement that students file an application to legalize their status would in essence, be notification to the government that they are here illegally and it would greatly increase the likelihood that they would be deported,” Rell said.

The Governor noted in her veto message that she also does not want “to encourage individuals to circumvent federal immigration laws. The bill, by providing benefits to undocumented aliens, may serve to encourage others to come to Connecticut in violation of federal immigration law.”

“I am sympathetic with the goals of this bill and with the needs of the students the bill seeks to help. But since the underlying issues are a matter of national concern and need to be addressed by the Congress, the most prudent course for the State of Connecticut is to wait for resolution at the federal level,” Rell said.

Williams noted that there 10 other states, including Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas, where these types of tuition incentives are seen as smart economic policy.

In these states, “They want young people to learn and become a valuable part of their social and business fabric. Unfortunately, the governor would rather put the onus on Congress to achieve what we here in Connecticut are already willing, ready and able to do. It’s a shame,” Williams said.