State Appeals Court Rejects In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants

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A state appeals court has ruled that illegal immigrants enrolled in California public colleges can't pay reduced in-state resident tuition. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the details.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The Sacramento appellate court ruled that California's 6-year-old law granting in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants constitutes a benefit based on residency. There's a federal law that blocks any benefits to undocumented people that are not available to U.S. citizens.

The appeals judges sent the case back to the lower court. Lawyer Ralph Kasarda welcomed the ruling. His organization, the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, filed a friend of the court brief arguing that the in-state tuition benefit encourages illegal immigration.

Ralph Kasarda: California should not subsidize violations of law. The state should maintain respect for government by not subsidizing those that break the law. Those that are here illegally.

Guzman-Lopez: The ruling comes two-and-a-half years after dozens of California college students, all out-of-state residents and U.S. citizens, sued, with the help of conservative legal groups, to overturn the in-state tuition provision for undocumented students.

The class action lawsuit named California's community colleges, the California State University system, and the University of California as defendants. UC's lawyers defended the state law, known by its bill number, AB540. Spokesman Ricardo Vasquez said the UC system is disappointed with the ruling.

Ricardo Vasquez: We are concerned that the decision could have an adverse impact on thousands of students for whom AB540 makes access to UC and other California public higher education institutions possible.

Guzman-Lopez: The appeals court decision places the college careers of tens of thousands of undocumented students in limbo. Opponents of AB540 urge a speedy dismissal of the in-state tuition provision for those students. There are no indications that'll happen soon.

Vasquez said UC lawyers and administrators haven't decided whether to resume the legal case in the lower court. News of the ruling spread quickly among students. Sheila, an 18-year-old undocumented student who attends East L.A. College and grew up in Los Angeles, got the news during lunchtime. She said her stomach turned.

Sheila: An education should not be taken away from anyone. It's not as if we're stealing; we're actually trying to help our community by being educated and eventually come back to our community.

Guzman-Lopez: That's the unresolved issue in this debate: what constitutes a public resource, who's entitled to it, and who should be restricted from enjoying it.