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Conn. House Passes Immigrant Tuition Bill After Daylong Debate

The Connecticut State Capitol Building in Hartford

Connecticut Dreamers have finally gotten what they’ve long lobbied state lawmakers for…the passage of a bill that allows undocumented students to qualify for the state’s system of financial aid at public colleges and universities.

The bill passed Wednesday on a 91-59 vote, following a daylong debate. 

The bill is considered a compromise and includes some provisions of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—or DACA—policy, such as requiring applicants not to have felony records.

But Watertown Rep. Joe Polletta, a Republican whose family emigrated from Italy, says he has "a problem handling out any money to someone who is undocumented."

Another opponent, North Branford Republican Vincent Candelora, worries that the students will be given preferential treatment. “What I’m astounded now to hear is that this bill is going to allow our institutions to potentially give preference to undocumented immigrants for this financial aid pool, over Connecticut residents.”

However, several lawmakers, including New Fairfield Republican Richard Smith, were convinced that it’s only fair that the student Dreamers be allowed to benefit from a financial aid system they already pay into through their existing tuition.

“If it was taxpayer dollars, I would have a big problem with it. But since this is institutional funds that they are actually reaching into their pocket putting into the tuition fund. And then being told, listen, despite that, you are not eligible even though you put in the same amount of money as your fellow students. I do find that fair.”

Representative Gregg Haddad, a Mansfield Democrat who is co-chair of the Higher Education Committee, agreed, saying, “Some of them, until they’ve gotten to the age of 16 or 17 or 18 and tried to get their drivers’ license, or first are thinking of applying for financial aid, didn’t know their status. In their hearts and minds, they are Americans. This is their home. This is where they grew up.”

The bill had already passed the Senate by a vote of 30 to 5. It now goes to Governor Dannel Malloy, who’s promised to sign it into law.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
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