Washington: No In-State Tuition for Immigrants, Then No Sales Taxes

State Senate Republican ranking minority member of Financial Institutions Housing and Insurance Committee, Don Benton has just dropped a bill (Senate Bill 5828) that would deny undocumented resident students of Washington in-state tuition and state financial aid at state universities.

This is a terrible policy idea on many counts. At a time when engineering programs at the University of Washington are turning away half of qualified applicants because of budget cuts, having an easy scapegoat for the problems in our state universities is typical. Why not blame undocumented immigrants for the crisis in higher education? Many of my students actually believe they are to blame for our failing health care system and for our economy as well thanks to conservative news media outlets.

Political Science Professor at the University of Washington, Luis Fraga states

Public policy is the primary way in which Americans have always demonstrated their commitment to each other.

Unfortunately, our commitments to each other are increasingly commitments of hate and hostility, especially targeted against some of our most vulnerable members of society. Hate is not only becoming a normalized part of our political dialogue at all levels of government, but it is now increasingly becoming public policy as well.

However, this bill is also highly hypocritical from a financial perspective. Washington State is one of the few states that does not have a state income tax. So, the largest portion of individual taxes paid (as opposed to business taxes) are paid for through sales taxes and fees on government services. This means that undocumented residents pay sales taxes just as much as anybody else. These taxes go towards funding higher education, among other things. If Senate Bill 5828 is successful this means that undocumented state residents will be denied the benefit of the taxes for which they contribute to. Perhaps Represented Benton would be willing to amend our tax system to exempt undocumented state residents from paying sales taxes too, just like we except non-state residents from Oregon, Alaska, and Idaho who shop here!