What Mitt Romney Won't Say About In-State Tuition

October 11, 2011 5:50 pm ET — Salvatore Colleluori

Gov. Rick Perry's (R-TX) comment that critics of Texas' in-state tuition law don't "have a heart" ignited a media firestorm and drew harsh condemnation from his Republican presidential opponents and many conservatives. Mitt Romney in particular has jumped on Perry's comments, putting out a campaign ad to claim that the Texas governor is 'soft' on immigration. However, Romney still has not been forced to address the facts about Texas' law — or the hypocrisy of defending Massachusetts' health care law as a states' rights issue while bashing Texas' right to make its own decisions about college tuition.

While Romney has said that the in-state tuition bill "makes no sense at all," he has not addressed the economic benefits of the law, such as the revenue it generates for Texas' schools. Furthermore, undocumented students who are able to afford college as a result of the law will earn higher incomes, allowing them to give more back to the state by purchasing goods and paying taxes (note: undocumented immigrants already pay taxes). That's why, as the Wall Street Journal points out, both lawmakers and the state's business community supported the law.

In addition to ignoring the economic evidence, Romney has failed to explain his inconsistent states' rights claims — especially in the absence of a federal law guiding tuition benefits for immigrants. As the Los Angeles Times explains:

The federal government holds jurisdiction over immigration law, and a 1982 Supreme Court ruling mandated that states provide illegal immigrants with access to K-12 education in public schools. But the absence of a comprehensive federal immigration plan has given states relatively free rein to impose their own rules on issues such as who can attend public colleges, and at what rates.

Even conservative commentators Erick Erickson and Michael Medved — no champions of immigrants' rights — have called out Romney's inconsistency on states' rights.

With tonight's GOP debate focusing on economic issues, isn't it time Romney confront the overwhelming evidence that Texas benefits from its in-state tuition law? And while he's at it, maybe he can explain to his conservative base how he can support the 10th Amendment when it applies to his own record, but not when comes to his opponents'.