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A Utah law that allows the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at the state's colleges and universities faces an unclear future now that the sponsor of the legislation will not be returning to the Utah Legislature. Longtime state Rep. Dave Ure, R-Kamas, was defeated by Vernal banker Keith T. VanTassell in the Republican primary for Senate District 26 . Most pundits say VanTassell was better known among Uinta Basin voters, who comprise the majority of residents in the district.

Now, in the face of the ongoing debate over illegal immigration, some activists fear that the in-state tuition law will be repealed. Ure staved off an attempt last year. The bill stalled in the House Rules Committee and never made it to the floor for a vote.

This legislation deserves a new champion because it gives people who qualify an opportunity to obtain a college degree. Utah's law extends in-state tuition rates to U.S. citizens based on where they attended high school. Utah's law grants in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants and others who attend a Utah high school for three years, graduate here and earn the equivalent of a diploma. The law would also apply, for instance, to a child from out of state who resides with Utah relatives for three years and graduates from a Utah high school.

This issue is about opportunity and bettering oneself through education. While much is made of the children of "illegal immigrants" being granted "special" privileges, many of these students were born in the United States. They are every bit as American as the descendants of the pilgrims.

But the larger issue is that less than 1 percent of Utah students have paid in-state tuition rates under Utah's version of the federal Dream Act. The reason is, most children of illegal immigrants struggle to complete high school. Shouldn't the relative few who succeed and want to improve their station in life be afforded the opportunity to do so?

The answer should be obvious.