Beebe: No College Ban Needed on Illegal Immigrants

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Mike Beebe's office says the governor opposes barring public colleges and universities from admitting illegal immigrants.

Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample says that the state doesn't need an overall ban on admission of illegal immigrants.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in an advisory opinion issued Wednesday that illegal immigrants can attend public colleges and universities and that the schools don't have a duty to check the citizenship status of potential students. 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.

Higher Education Director Jim Purcell says he doesn't know of any schools that bar admitting illegal immigrants.

But Jeannie Burlsworth, chairwoman of the Secure Arkansas group that has been pushing for more state-level immigration enforcement, says she plans to lobby lawmakers to ban illegal immigrants from attending any publicly funded colleges or universities. Burlsworth's group failed to gather enough signatures earlier this year to place on the ballot a measure aimed at denying state benefits to illegal immigrants.

McDaniel's opinion seems likely to continue a heated debate in the Legislature over illegal immigration that began with a failed effort in 2005 to provide in-state tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants.

Incoming state Senator Joyce Elliott says she's likely to try again with the proposal in next year's session. Elliott says she believes McDaniel's opinion would help her make the argument in favor of her legislation.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)