Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, wants to make sure federal law does not prevent states, including Utah, from granting in-state tuition to undocumented students.
That's one of several "pieces" the Utah Republican told members of his immigration advisory committee that he wants to bring to the table in the federal immigration debate.
Cannon was in West Jordan Tuesday for the committee's second meeting. The first was held Jan. 24 in Provo.
He said he's looking forward to committee members agreeing to principles on which immigration policy should be based and creating ideas for change.
"We can't have a debate unless we have principles," Cannon said. "We can use those principles to help frame the issue."
Cannon expects the immigration debate to come to a conference committee later this year, when the Senate is expected to vote on an immigration measure.
Last fall, the House passed an immigration measure that Cannon voted for to move the debate forward. However, he called it a "silly bill" because it only addresses enforcement, such as tighter border security, but doesn't address issues such as worker visas.
While he acknowledged, "We're not going to control the debate," Cannon added, "I am going to have a significant amount of influence."
Cannon said he'd like to see parts of the Dream Act included in the conference discussion. The Dream Act, which never became law, would have provided higher education as a pathway for qualified undocumented youths to work toward citizenship.
Utah lawmakers voted in 2002 to pass a law allowing undocumented students, who attended a Utah high school for three years and graduated, to pay in-state tuition. Lawmakers are now considering HB7, which would repeal the tuition law.
Later Tuesday, HB7, which is on the calendar to be heard on the floor of the Utah House, was the topic of discussion at a panel hosted by Service Politics and Civic Participation at the University of Utah.
Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who is among those in the House Education Committee who voted for HB7, said lawmakers passed the tuition benefit thinking that the Dream Act also would pass. The committee voted after hearing opposing legal views on whether or not federal action is needed for the state to be in compliance with federal law.
"Four years later, the Dream Act has not passed," he said.
Hughes said federal inaction on pathways to legal status "relegates people to second-class citizenry."
Teresa Martinez, associate dean for outreach at the U., disagreed, saying Utah shouldn't wait for federal action on a "fundamentally clear moral issue." "We need to take our educational policy into our hands and do right for all Utah children," she said.