SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ― The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that some illegal immigrants are entitled to the same tuition breaks offered to in-state high school students to attend public colleges and universities.
While the ruling applies only to California, the case was closely watched nationally because nine other states including New York and Texas have similar laws.
Republican congressmen Lamar S. Smith of Texas and Steve King of Iowa filed a so-called friends of the court brief urging that illegal immigrants be denied the reduced rate.
The lawsuit considered by the court was part of a broader legal assault led by the immigration legal scholar Kris Kobach, who has filed numerous cases across the country seeking to restrict the rights of illegal immigrants.
He represented a group of U.S. students who filed the lawsuit seeking to invalidated the California law.
Kobach did not return a phone call seeking comment about the ruling in California.
A unanimous state Supreme Court, led by politically conservative Justice Ming Chin, said the California provision was constitutional because U.S. residents also had access to the reduce rates.
The California Legislature passed the controversial measure in 2001 that allowed any student regardless of immigration status who attended a California high school for at least three years and graduated to qualify for in-state tuition at the state’s colleges universities. In-state tuition saves each state college student about $11,000 a year and each University of California student about $23,000 a year.
A state appellate court in 2008 ruled the law was unconstitutional after a group of out-of-state students who are U.S. citizens filed a lawsuit alleging the measure violated federal prohibitions barring illegal immigrants from receiving post-secondary benefits not available to U.S. citizens based on state residency.
But the state Supreme Court noted that the California law says nothing about state residency,
The state law also requires the illegal immigrants applying for the in-state tuition to swear they will attempt to become U.S. citizens. The applicants are still barred from receiving federal financial aid.
“Through their hard work and perseverance, these students have earned the opportunity to attend UC,” said University of California president Mark G. Yudof. “Their accomplishments should not be disregarded or their futures jeopardized.”
Kobach also failed to invalidate a similar law in Kansas. His lawsuit in Nebraska is pending.
The law professor was the chief drafter of Arizona’s tough new laws against illegal immigrants, which is pending before a federal appeals court.
He was elected earlier this month to serve as secretary of state in Kansas.
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