SACRAMENTO (CN) – A California law allowing certain illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at California’s public universities and colleges “thwarts the will of Congress,” a California appeals court ruled. Justice Sims reinstated a class action brought by U.S. citizens who pay nonresident tuition.
A group of students and parents who pay nonresident tuition claimed state universities engaged in an “illegal alien tuition scheme” by granting illegal aliens a tuition break – about $17,000 at the University of California – denied to nonresident U.S. citizens.
Federal law provides that: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State … for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.”
Regents, trustees and other California university officials argued that in-state tuition is not a “benefit” within the meaning of the law, and that the tuition break is not granted “on the basis of residence within a state.” Instead, they claimed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants is based on whether a student attended a California high school for three or more years.
The trial court sustained the defendants’ demurrers and dismissed the case, but the appellate court reversed.
In-state tuition does constitute a benefit under federal law, Justice Sims ruled. Sims also called the three-year attendance requirement a “surrogate residence requirement,” and said the state law violates the will of Congress.