Supreme Court Allows Illegal Immigrants In California To Pay In-State Tuition

June 6, 2011

Hispanic college student with American flag in backgroundIllegal immigrants in California will still be able to pay the same in-state college tuition rates as legal state residents, provided they meet certain requirements.

According to Reuters, the Supreme Court rejected the case Robert Martinez v. Regents of the University of California, which challenged California's policy of giving illegal immigrants living in the state the same reduced tuition rates as legal state residents at public universities. The 2001 law allows any student who attends a California high school for three years and graduates to pay reduced in-state postsecondary tuition. Qualifying illegal immigrants must agree to seek U.S. citizenship.

The law was challenged by a group of out-of-state U.S. citizens who argued they were discriminated against in favor of illegal immigrants. Lawyers for the group argued that the state law violated a 1996 federal law that prohibited any state from giving illegal immigrants any postsecondary benefit based on residency unless U.S. citizens were granted the same benefit.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, stating that the state law was based on high school attendance and graduation, not state residency and, therefore, did not violate federal law. Furthermore, reported the Los Angeles Times, state education officials pointed out that many of the students who took advantage of in-state tuition rates were U.S. citizens from other states.

According to CNN, 11 other states have similar laws in place, including Maryland, New York and Washington. However, there are 12 states that have taken the opposite route and have passed laws that refuse in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. Alabama is one such state, reported The New York Times.

The Alabama Senate and House recently passed a bill that many have called the harshest immigration law in the country. Among the bill's many provisions is one that bars illegal immigrants from enrolling in a public college after high school. Public schools are responsible for determining the immigration status of all students and must also publish the number of all immigrants enrolled in the school as well as any costs associated with their education. Governor Robert Bentley is expected to sign the measure into law.

Compiled by Staff


"In Alabama, a Harsh Bill for Residents Here Illegally,", June 3, 2011, Julia Preston

"Supreme Court: State can offer illegal immigrants reduced tuition,", June 6, 2011, Bill Mears

"Supreme Court allows California to grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants,", June 6, 2011, David G. Savage

"Supreme Court rejects illegal immigrants' tuition case,", June 6, 2011, James Vicini

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