Good and Bad: Both Anti-Sanctuary and In-State Tuition Bills Become Law in Arkansas
By Shari Rendall | April 18, 2019
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) recently signed two bills with contradictory goals – an anti-sanctuary bill that will discourage illegal immigration by enforcing the rule of law and encouraging cooperation with federal immigration officials and an in-state tuition bill that gives benefits to illegal aliens in violation of federal immigration laws.
Senate Bill (SB) 411 was introduced by Senator Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) on February 26. The bill:
- Defines and bans sanctuary policies;
- Requires compliance with immigration detainers;
- Authorizes the Arkansas Attorney General to cut off certain state funds to sanctuaries until they comply; and
- Allows an appeal of the AG’s decision only to certain courts.
The bill passed the Senate’s Committee on City, County & Local Affairs on April 4, and the full Senate by a vote of 24-5 the following day.
While it was being debated in the Senate, opponents of the bill called it a solution in search of a problem.
But to that Sen. Stubblefield responded, “[t]ell it to the family in Alabama, whose 12-year-old daughter was raped – brutally raped – just Tuesday of this week by a man who had previously been deported twice ... That little girl will never be the same ... Does that sound like a solution looking for a problem?”
SB 411 passed the state House of Representatives on April 10 along party lines, 71-24. Gov. Hutchinson then signed the bill despite his concerns that there weren’t currently any sanctuary cities or counties in Arkansas and that it might lead to “profiling.”
House Bill (HB) 1684, sponsored by Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville)—who was notably one of the four Republicans in the House who didn’t vote for the anti-sanctuary bill—grants in-state tuition at Arkansas’s public colleges and universities to illegal aliens as long as they:
- Are either a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program, or the child of someone with legal work authorization in the United States;
- Live in Arkansas for at least three years; and
- Graduate from high school or receive a high school equivalency diploma in Arkansas.
This is an enormous benefit to illegal aliens at the expense of Arkansas’s taxpayers. For example, the in-state rate for 30 credit hours at the University of Arkansas, combining tuition and fees, is currently $9,130, while the out-of-state rate is $25,168, a difference of $16,038 and more than two and a half times the price.
According to FAIR’s 2017 cost study, Arkansas taxpayers already spend $453 million a year on costs related to illegal immigration, which comes out to $4,307 per alien in an estimated population of more than 78,000 statewide. This bill will likely act as a magnet for further illegal immigration and cause those numbers to rise.
HB 1684 was aggressively pushed by former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who had been advocating for similar measures since 2005.
Despite such high-profile support for it, some lawmakers have still cried foul over HB 1684. Representative Gayla McKenzie (R-Gravette), asked, “what are we saying to the folks who wait, who follow the rules?”
The bill passed the House on March 19 (75-11), the Senate with an amendment on April 3 (18-7), and the House again as amended on April 5 (62-19), all by wide margins but all also with significant numbers of legislators abstaining from voting either way.
When he signed HB 1684, Gov. Hutchinson said it and the anti-sanctuary bill “represented both compassion and the rule of law -- “two great American values in competition with each other.”