Pawlenty to immigrants: You're dreaming

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's threat this week to veto the higher education funding bill if a provision allowing undocumented immigrants to receive tuition breaks wasn't dropped is remarkably malicious--even by his foul standards.

The measure, known as the "Dream Act," would allow undocumented immigrants who have lived in Minnesota for at least three years and graduated from high school to qualify for in-state college tuition. It's an eminently reasonable proposal aimed at assisting immigrant children, most of whom have ended up in this country through no choice of their own. Many Republicans across the country, including Governors George Pataki of New York and Utah's John Huntsman Jr., have championed similar measures.

Pawlenty's usual justification for adopting policies that slam the poor--they cost too much--isn't applicable here since the money needed to implement the tuition change would be a pittance. The most reasonable explanation for his hard-line stance is that it's yet another way for the Governor to position himself for a national political run. By aligning himself with the virulently anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party he gains another chit with the conservative base.

Sen. Sandy Pappas, a strong advocate of the Dream Act, says that she was floored when she learned of Pawlenty's threat during a conference committee meeting about the higher education bill on Wednesday. "There was like a stunned silence in the room and I was really ready to walk out," says the St. Paul DFL'er.

Pappas will continue to push for passage of the measure down the road. "They're Minnesotans," she notes. "They?ve grown up in Minnesota. They?ve gone to school here. They?re smart. They?ve worked hard. And now their dream of going to college is being taken away from them."

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