Effort to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving free college voted down by Democrats

The amendment was ultimately voted down along party lines; all 34 Democrats voted against it, while all 33 Republicans voted in favor of it. 

Sen. Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, speaks on the Senate floor April 15. (Minnesota Senate Media/YouTube)

A Republican legislator in the Minnesota Senate put forward an amendment that would ensure illegal immigrants do not receive college aid from a state-funded scholarship program. The amendment was defeated by Senate Democrats in a partisan vote.

In 2023, Democrats controlling state government established the “North Star Promise Scholarship Program.” Designed to help Minnesotans have broader access to higher education, the program will provide free tuition for students to attend college if their families make less than $80,000 annually. Other eligibility requirements also determine who can receive a scholarship.

However, the North Star Promise Scholarship Program has no requirement that the recipients of the scholarships be residing in Minnesota legally. As such, illegal aliens residing in Minnesota can be awarded taxpayer-funded scholarships to attend college in Minnesota.

On Monday, the Minnesota Senate discussed and voted on this year’s omnibus higher education policy bill. Sen. Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, offered an amendment to that bill which would have required North Star Promise Scholarship Program recipients to be “legally residing or lawfully present in Minnesota for federal immigration purposes.”

In explaining his amendment, the Pine City legislator said, “We should be making sure that the people who take advantage and use the program to further their education in Minnesota are Minnesotans; they’re children of Minnesota families.”

Sen. Rarick also stated that he wanted to make sure Minnesota was not attracting other people from around the world who would “take advantage of Minnesota taxpayers.” The Republican legislator described his amendment as establishing “guardrails” for the scholarship program.

Sen. Omar Fateh, D-Minneapolis, the author of the higher education bill that Sen. Rarick was attempting to amend, offered no rebuttal to Sen. Rarick’s comments. Instead, Sen. Fateh simply said, “I recommend a ‘no’ vote” regarding the amendment.

Following Sen. Fateh’s comment, a brief discussion of the bill ensued. Sen. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, and Sen. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, spoke in favor of Rarick’s amendment while Sen. Aric Putnam, D-St. Cloud, spoke against it.

The amendment was ultimately voted down along party lines; all 34 Democrats voted against it, while all 33 Republicans voted in favor of it.

In response, the national Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) put out a statement.

“Minnesotans cannot catch a break while the DFL continues to provide more freebies for illegal immigrants while they are stuck paying the bill,” said RSLC spokesperson Stephanie Rivera. “It’s clear that when the DFL has trifecta control in St. Paul, illegal immigrants will always be the priority over their own constituents.”


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.