A GANNETT COMPANY
State grants for undocumented immigrants a bad idea
David Olen Cross 2:05 p.m. PDT June 18, 2015
Sens. Peter Courtney of Salem and Michael Dembrow of Portland, along with Reps. Betty Komp of Woodburn, Jessica Vega Peterson of Portland and Joe Gallegos of Hillsboro, sponsored Senate Bill 932, which would grant access to Oregon Opportunity Grants to illegal immigrants.
That sponsorship makes these legislators seem tone deaf to the will of nearly 1 million Oregon voters (66 percent) who less than eight months ago rejected during the 2014 General Election Measure 88, which would have granted state-issued driver cards to illegal immigrants.
By a 2-to-1 ratio, voters defeated Measure 88, indicating that Oregon voters are very opposed to providing illegal immigrants any form of state benefit, such as a state-issued identity, that would validate their presence in the state.
SB 932 in a very clear way validates the presence of illegal immigrants in the state by granting them the benefit of equal access to Oregon Opportunity Grants. This school year only 30 percent of the 120,000 Oregon students eligible obtained a taxpayer-funded Oregon Opportunity Grant.
Currently, there are not enough state monies available to fund Oregon Opportunity Grants for all Oregon students who are U.S. citizens, let alone for persons illegally in the state.
The financial impact of SB 932 on the state’s taxpayers is that the legislation could require the state to write a check in the amount of up to $2,100 for the 2015-2016 school years to each illegal immigrant who applies and is accepted to receive a grant.
Over the period that it takes to complete a traditional four-year college education, an individual illegal immigrant could receive as much as $8,400 in state opportunity grants.
Earlier this year, Rep. Vega Peterson estimated that 76 illegal immigrants living in Oregon could be eligible to receive the grants.
Doing the math on 76 illegal immigrants receiving Oregon Opportunity Grants for one to four years, that could cost the state’s taxpayers between $159,600 and $638,400.
The state administrative costs for giving illegal immigrants opportunity grants are estimated over the next four years to be $144,499.
The preceding numbers very likely underestimate the total number of illegal residents who might actually receive the opportunity grants in the future because, according to the Pew Research Center, there are 120,000 unauthorized residents in Oregon.
A final troubling fact about SB 932 is that the sponsors have placed an emergency clause on the bill, which means Oregonians opposing this legislation would be prevented from using the state’s referendum process to put this issue before the state’s voters.
Oregon voters who reject the idea of granting the benefit of Oregon Opportunity Grants to illegal immigrants, a legislative action that validates their presence in the state, should contact their state senator and representative and tell them to vote no on SB 932.
David Olen Cross of Salem writes on immigration issues and foreign national crime. He can be reached at email@example.com.