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More State Lawmakers Withdrawing Their Name From Controversial Tuition Bill

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Reaction to a bill calling for better college access for illegal immigrants' children is causing lawmakers to take another look at the piece of legislation.

"I scanned the bill and saw a lot of nice folks on there, so I immediately signed it," said Rep. Doug Youngue, D-Scotland County.

The bill, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition if they attend high school for four years and meet admissions standards, started out with 32 N.C. House members backing it. Now, it is down to 25 lawmakers. Both Republicans and Democrats are among those withdrawing their support.

"It's just a small band-aid approach to allowing some of our low income kids of the workers we have in our state to be able to get an education," said Andrea Bazan-Manson of El Pueblo, an organization that supports the bill.

But opposition is fast and furious.

"This would simply increase the number of illegal aliens in North Carolina within a short period of time," said William Gheen, a representative for Americans for Legal Immigration.

Opponents sounded the alarm that the bill would encourage illegal immigration and reduce the number of slots in the UNC system for legal citizens.

It made some of the bill's original co-sponsors think again.

"I don't want to deprive any legal citizens of this state to go to college," Youngue said.

Youngue is one of seven representatives who now believe the bill needs more study.

"I think many of them signed the bill because a friend offered it to them, or they didn't consider the ramifications," said Gheen. "It sounded really good on the surface."

Advocates for the bill believe it's a debate they can win.

"We've recruited these workers," said Bazan-Manson. "What are we going to do with their children?"

House Democrats meet with leaders behind closed doors Tuesday where the bill's future will likely be discussed.

Advocates say about 500 to 1,300 children of illegal immigrants would apply to a public university or community college as a result of this bill, despite the spike in the number illegal immigrants living in North Carolina.

The Pew Hispanic Center found that population grew by 43 percent in the last four years, to about 300,000 people.

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