Carlos Moreno throws his son Carlos Rodrigo as his wife Norbelys and son Carlos Isaias look on in Midvale September 9, 2019. Participants Tuesday called on members of the House Education Committee to pass legislation that would increase state tuition fees at Utah public colleges and universities. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — Refugees, political asylum-seekers and their advocates on Tuesday called on members of the House Education Committee to pass legislation that would increase state tuition at Utah’s public colleges and universities.
HB102, sponsored by Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, would require the colleges and universities in the Utah System of Higher Education to provide non-United States citizens who have received or applied for certain immigration status with a Grant residency status.
Young women and men from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa told the committee that their aspirations to attend college and graduate school to become professionals have been hampered because they cannot afford to pay out-of-state tuition.
Carlos Moreno, representative of the organization New Leaders for America, said he came to the United States as an international student to improve his English skills after studying law in Venezuela.
While in the United States, the Venezuelan authoritarian regime prevented international students from accessing their money.
To further complicate matters, Moreno has been charged by Venezuelan authorities with conspiracy and treason, making it impossible for him to return home.
“I had to apply for political asylum here. I was lucky because my political asylum procedure lasted four months. That was very, very, very unusual because this process takes 10 years, seven years, eight years, 12 years. They come out of nowhere. You are in a state of legal limbo. You are here, but at the same time you are not here,” he said.
Moreno had to face the reality of paying bills, learning English and getting an education.
“For a refugee or someone seeking political asylum, it’s insane to pay out-of-state tuition, about three times what tuition costs domestically,” he said.
Moreno attended Salt Lake Community College, where he was elected student body president, earning him full tuition and a monthly stipend that helped support his family.
Others weren’t so lucky and had to put their college plans on hold because they had to work to support themselves and couldn’t afford the out-of-state tuition, he said.
“This is the reality of the refugee or a political asylum seeker,” he said.
For a refugee or someone seeking political asylum, it’s crazy to pay out-of-state tuition, about three times what tuition costs domestically.
– Carlos Moreno
A Utah law passed in 2002 allows nonresident students to qualify for state tuition at public colleges and universities if they graduate after at least three years of attendance at a Utah high school .
HB102 would extend local tuition to a demographic that would not qualify for consideration under HB144, which was passed 21 years ago.
Some of those who testified Tuesday said they had started university studies in their home countries but were forced to flee due to political unrest and wanted to resume their education in Utah.
Teuscher requested committee support for HB102.
“This law will have little impact on our colleges, but it will mean everything to these students,” he said.
The committee unanimously approved the bill and sent it to the House of Representatives for further consideration.