New bill to keep illegals out of Tennessee universities

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KNOXVILLE (WVLT) -- While students and parents worry about tuition going up, there are questions about whether some should be allowed to enroll at all.

Specifically illegal immigrants some of whom moved here when they were very young and are now graduating from high school.

Many say the simple question at the heart of there argument is, “should taxpayers be responsible for providing higher education to people who are here illegally? “

In order to enroll at the University of Tennessee, students must either be citizens or prove that they are in this country legally.

Most of the students we talked to on Thursday said they have no problem with the current system.

"The institution is supported by taxpayers for citizens of the state,” said Rick Moore, a UT student. “Illegals are just that, they're not citizens of the state."

"They shouldn't be in the states in the first place,” said Jessica Mirshak, another UT student. “It would be kind of turning the other cheek to let them enroll."

State Representative Stacey Campfield of Knoxville agrees, which is why he has sponsored a bill to stop all colleges and university in Tennessee from admitting illegal immigrants.

"Right now at the University of Tennessee, we have a lot of classes that are filled to capacity,” Campfield said. “We have students that aren't graduating on time because they can't get into classes, and every seat that is taken up by an illegal immigrant is a seat that a legal immigrant would probably love to fill."

Keeping illegal immigrants out does not mean that only U.S. Citizens will be able to learn at UT.

Luca Pasqualotti of France is part of a University of Tennessee exchange program.

Pasqualotti said he has learned a lot by spending time with other students from around the world, and the university benefits from diversity.

But he still understands why the effort should be made to make sure students are here legally.

"There are people that say, ‘let's let everybody come,’ and there are the people that say ‘let nobody come,’” he said, “so I think there is a middle that can be found."

Campfield said the state has passed very limited immigration reforms and needs tougher measures like the proposed bill to keep up with other states that have done more.

The bill is headed to the senate for consideration next week.

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