NEW: State Sen. Angry U.S. Attorney Won’t Issue Opinion on In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) said today he is disappointed with a response he received from the office of the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island to a request for an opinion on granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.

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In a letter sent earlier this month to U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha, Senator Sheehan sought an “opinion about the legality of the action taken by the Board of Regents” to grant in-state college tuition rates to illegal alien children who graduate from Rhode Island high schools.

In that letter, Senator Sheehan said he was concerned about the legality of that decision, “in light of the 1996 federal law that allows a state to provide someone who is in this country illegally with state or local benefits for which they would otherwise be ineligible unless the state enacts enabling legislation.”

Senator Sheehan said he was contacted earlier this week by Ken Madden, assistant to Mr. Neronha, who said the office of the U.S. Attorney would not offer advice or an opinion on whether in-state tuition could be considered a benefit under federal law. Senator Sheehan said that Mr. Madden has forwarded a copy of his letter to the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., requesting guidance, and indicated he did not know how long it would take to receive a response.

“I was disappointed in the response” from the U.S. Attorney’s office, said Senator Sheehan. “Irrespective if one agrees with providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, one would hope that the chief office for upholding federal law in the U.S. District of Rhode Island would be able to make a determination of law independently for his office without the need for guidance on this politically sensitive subject.”

“I look forward to hearing a definitive response from Mr. Neronha’s office as soon as practicable,” said Senator Sheehan, “as this issue may continue to fester, causing unnecessary disruption in the legislature.”


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