Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill Monday that would extend in-state tuition to the American-born children of undocumented immigrants, saying they are residents of the state despite their parents' status.
The state House of Representatives voted 63-27 to approve Senate Bill 2115, sending it to Gov. Bill Haslam for signature. The bill, one of two dealing with in-state tuition and undocumented immigrants, appeared to mark at least a slight shift on immigration policy for the Republican-dominated state legislature.
State Rep. Mark White, the Memphis Republican who sponsored the bill, said the legislation would clarify state law. Representatives for the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents systems have said they cannot charge in-state tuition to students whose parents are not legal Tennessee residents. It is not clear how many people the bill would affect.
Lawmakers approved the bill quickly, with only a passing mention of the debate that occurred before it was brought to the House floor. Opponents said then that parents who come to the United States illegally would get a benefit while American citizens who live in other states don't receive the same consideration.
Earlier this year, lawmakers rejected an even more controversial bill that would have extended in-state tuition to graduates of Tennessee high schools who are themselves undocumented. Both pieces of legislation were debated seriously in the General Assembly just two years after it passed several bills meant to encourage undocumented immigrants to leave the state.