St. LOUIS (CN) — “Dreamers” protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are not entitled to in-state tuition at Missouri colleges, a state appeals court said in a split ruling.
Appellant Jane Doe was granted DACA status in 2012. She had lived in Missouri for 10 years and was granted, and never lost, protections of the DACA program. In 2015 she applied for in-state tuition at St. Louis Community College.
St. Louis CC that year charged $103 per credit hour to in-state students within its community college district, $149 per hour to in-state students outside of the SLCC district, $205 per hour to out-of-state students, and $215 per hour to international students.
Doe sued the college and lost. On Tuesday, two of three judges on Division Three of the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District affirmed the ruling from St. Louis County Circuit Court.
“We hold that the trial court correctly concluded DACA approval does not qualify as any type of ‘resident alien states, as determined by federal authority,’ and therefore Ms. Doe was not entitled to the in-district tuition rate,” Presiding Judge Angela Quigless wrote for the majority. Judge Robert Dowd Jr. concurred.
Judge Lisa Van Amburg wrote a sharply worded dissent.
“St. Louis is the only home that Doe has known since the fourth grade. She is not an ‘international student.’ Her presence here is not unlawful. Prior to passage of H.B. 3 containing the preamble that we all agree is irrelevant, Doe would have paid in-district tuition. Doe resides and works in the SLCC district and pays Missouri income taxes, which fund the very institution now denying her residency based solely on an unenforceable preamble. This result is absurd and wholly avoidable.”
The preamble to Missouri House Bill 3 of 2015 stated: “No funds shall be expended at public institutions of higher education that offer a tuition rate to any student with an unlawful immigration status in the United States that is less than the tuition rate charged to international students.”
Van Amburg pointed out that Doe does not have “unlawful immigration status.” She cited Arizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer, where the Ninth Circuit rejected an Arizona policy on DACA recipients. “In determining which aliens shall be eligible to receive a state benefit, Arizona created a new immigration classification based on its independent view of who is authorized under federal law to be present in the United States,” the Ninth Circuit wrote in that case.
Van Amburg also cited DeVries v. Regents of the University of California, where a California Court of Appeal court upheld in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who attended high school in the state.
Van Amburg said that “resident alien status as determined by federal authority” includes DACA recipients such as Doe.
“This result is absurd and wholly avoidable,” Van Amburg concluded. “There is a legally plausible and constitutionally sound alternative that is also the just result on these facts. We should choose it.”
St. Louis Community College has an enrollment of about 26,600. Classes begin Aug. 21.