Despite a lack of statutory authority from the Massachusetts Legislature, Governor Deval Patrick announced on Monday that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants at its institutions of higher education.
Bradley H. Jones, Republican Minority Leader in the Massachusetts House, accused Patrick of illegally usurping the power of the state legislature:
The implementation of in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants should be stopped immediately. Regardless of whether or not the Governor and I agree on this issue, the topic at hand should be how best to provide an affordable education for all of Massachusetts’ residents...
Governor Patrick’s most recent attempt to usurp the power of the Legislature is cause for concern. Instead of engaging elected officials from both political parties in constructive conversation and debate, he has put his interests, both political and personal, above those of Massachusetts’ residents. (emphasis added)
Patrick claimed he had the legal authority to unilaterally make the in-state tuition decision without the authorization of the State Legislature in a letter sent on Monday to Richard Freeland, the Massachusetts State Higher Education Commissioner:
I am advised by counsel – and I agree – that beneficiaries of the (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy are eligible for in-state tuition under our existing rules and regulations. Therefore, I am directing you to advise the various public higher education campuses to take action accordingly so that this policy can be implemented immediately and uniformly across our 29 state campuses.
In 2006, in-state tuition for illegal immigrants was rejected by a resounding 97 to 57 margin.The Lowell Sun reported on Monday that bipartisan opposition to the Governor's announcement remains strong in the State Legislature six years later:
State Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lowell, anticipates the Legislature will take up the issue again in the wake of Patrick's directive.
"In order to be entitled to benefits in the United States, I think you should be here legally," said Murphy. "What's amazing to me is how many immigrants I've talked to who believe the same thing. They say everybody should to do it the way they did it. Legally."
State Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington, also expects legislative action.
"I don't know what it is yet, but there's enough opposition to this decision that I think we're going to be stepping up to the plate on this," he said.
The stage is now set for a classic battle for power between the State Legislature, which seeks to preserve its rights and authority, and the Governor, who seeks to expand his power.