Commentary: Whitman, Poizner bring fearmongering over immigrants to gubernatorial race

The Sacramento BeeApril 6, 2010 

A definition of demagoguery is when a politician knows something isn't really true or fair, but continues to exploit it anyway.

So will Republican gubernatorial candidates Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman step up and admit they're misleading California's voters about college students who are also illegal immigrants?

Both have been bashing the students as a financial burden on taxpayers to prove their tough-on-illegal immigration bona fides to the party faithful. They both want to repeal Assembly Bill 540, which grants in-state tuition to some non-residents, including some illegal immigrants.

But as The Bee's Susan Ferriss reported last week, those students represent a tiny fraction – 1 percent or less – of all students in all three of the state's higher education systems. On University of California campuses, for instance, there were fewer than 2,000 students who were not state residents but were paying in-state tuition in 2007-08 – and UC says only as many as 400 were illegal immigrants.

So the savings from rescinding AB 540 would be far less than the candidates suggest, a minuscule portion of the higher education budget.

Many of the students were brought here as young children by their parents; even to be eligible for in-state tuition, they have to graduate from California high schools and must have attended for at least three years. And many of them will stay in California, so the state has a real stake in their education and future.

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