The undocumented child of an immigrant should get the same opportunity to attend college as anyone else, a York County lawmaker argues.

State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-West Lampeter, has introduced legislation that would allow a Pennsylvania high school graduate who does not have citizenship documentation to get in-state college tuition rates.

The Dream Act has already been enacted in a dozen other states, including Maryland. Smucker is now seeking co-sponsorship. Dream is an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.

The act would give those students of illegal aliens conditional residency so they can get in-state tuition rates, and put them on the path to get permanent residency.

Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition, an advocacy group, estimates the state has about 850 such undocumented students graduating from high school each year.

"We have already invested in them by providing a K-12 education," said Smucker, who represents a portion of eastern York County. "They have a bright future ahead of them, but they are worried about affording college."

Qualifications: To qualify, the student must have attended a Pennsylvania high school for at least two years and be able to prove to the financial aid office he or she lives in Pennsylvania.

Smucker said it doesn't seem fair to punish children of undocumented immigrants "for something their parents did years ago."

"We're talking about kids who were brought here by their families. They don't have any say in that. This is their home," Smucker said.

Smucker said he believes it's better to turn those students into productive members of society rather than leave barriers that keep them from getting a college education. In-state tuition is several thousand dollars less than out-of-state tuition.

-- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdispatch.com