California Supreme Court Disregards Intent and Letter of Federal Statute in Decision to Allow In-State Tuition Benefits for Illegal Aliens
(November 15, 2010 — Washington, D.C.) - Today’s ruling by the California Supreme Court upholding California’s in-state tuition statute ignores both the letter and intent of a law passed by Congress in 1996, charged the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The Court’s ruling reverses the unanimous decision of a state appeals court.
In the case of Martinez v. Board of Regents, the California Supreme Court ruled that AB 540 is not expressly preempted by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) of 1996, which requires states to make in-state tuition benefits available to all U.S. citizens if they provide such benefits to illegal aliens based on state residence. The court ruled that California could legally circumvent that congressional intent by offering in-state tuition benefits based on having completed three years and graduating from a California high school. That qualification is easily met by many illegal aliens, while making it impossible for citizens from other states to qualify for the benefit.
FAIR and its legal affiliate, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, helped initiate the suit on behalf of out-of-state students who were denied benefits given to illegal aliens. FAIR president Dan Stein, called today’s ruling “legally flawed and highly political.” “The intent of Congress was unmistakable,” charged Stein. “In passing IIRAIRA , Congress meant to send a clear message that if a state chose to reward illegal aliens with taxpayer subsidized college tuition, they would have to provide those same benefits ‘in no less duration, scope, or amount’ to all U.S. citizens regardless of their state residency.”
The California legislature in 2001 blatantly attempted to create a loophole in the federal law by using the number of years of high school completed as the basis for conferring tuition benefits on illegal aliens, while denying those benefits to U.S. citizens from other states. In upholding that loophole, the California Supreme Court ignored the intent of Congress to prohibit states from giving postsecondary education benefits to illegal aliens based on residence unless the state gave the same benefit to U.S. citizens.
“It is up to Congress to amend IIRAIRA in a way that precludes states from using the loophole opened by the California Supreme Court. The ruling defies the intent of Congress and allows states to discriminate against law abiding citizens in favor of illegal aliens,” declared Stein.
FAIR noted that the California ruling is not likely to have much effect outside of California and the other states that currently offer in-state tuition benefits to illegal aliens. “Given the fiscal realities faced by state governments and intense public opposition to providing benefits to illegal aliens, it is unlikely that other states are going to be looking for ways to increase the size of their budget deficits. California, which now spends $88 million a year on tuition benefits for illegal aliens, and more than $21 billion a year on all benefits and services for illegal aliens and their families, is not the model most states want to emulate.
“The real losers in today’s ruling are the taxpayers of California and thousands to U.S. citizens pursuing their educational goals in California who want nothing more than the same deal illegal aliens get,” concluded Stein.