Arkansas AG Says State Colleges Can Admit Illegal Aliens

By Andrew DeMillo, Associated Pre... | September 15, 2008 | 5:40 PM EDT

Little Rock, Ark. - Arkansas' colleges and universities can admit illegal immigrants, the Arkansas attorney general's office says.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in an advisory opinion Wednesday that schools don't have a duty to verify the citizenship status of potential students they admit. The state's higher education director earlier this year ordered schools to check the immigration status of potential students.

"It is my opinion in response to your specific questions that undocumented individuals may enroll in Arkansas' public colleges and universities and that such schools are not obliged to verify citizenship as a condition of enrollment," McDaniel said in the opinion, answering questions submitted by state Rep. Rick Green, a Republican.
McDaniel's opinion, however, noted that there was nothing barring schools from making citizenship a requirement of admission to a school or from checking immigration status on their own.
The state's higher education chief earlier this year sent out a letter warning schools not to offer illegal immigrants in-state tuition, unless they wanted to give the same benefits to an out-of-state student. The department began polling the state's two- and four-year colleges and universities after that to find out their admissions practices.
Higher Education Director Jim Purcell in May said after checking a statewide database of student information that about 2,000 people enrolled at state colleges and universities attended class under dummy Social Security numbers. Some of those could have been illegal immigrants, while others could be international students or legal U.S. residents who haven't registered with the Social Security Administration.
The opinion was requested by Green, who has been pushing for more state-level laws targeting illegal immigration. Green said Wednesday he had not yet read the opinion and did not know if he would introduce legislation requiring schools to not admit illegal immigrants.
The opinion from McDaniel's office, prepared by Assistant Attorney General Elisabeth Walker, avoids interpreting any federal law on the admission of illegal immigrants.
Instead, it says that the federal Homeland Security Department has said it's up to states to decide whether to allow illegal immigrants to attend public colleges and universities.

(Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)