Monday, November 15, 2010

California Supreme Court Upholds In-State Fees for Undocumented College Students

Today, the California Supreme Court upheld the provisions of the California state statute allowing undocumented students and others to pay in-state the same fees as residents to attend the University of California, California Sate University, and community college systems.

In Martinez v. Regents of the University of California, the Supreme Court of California reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in a unanimous opinion by Justice Ming Chin.  The Supreme Court held that the state law did not violate the federal immigration laws or the U.S. Constitution.  

Law professor Kris Kobach, who drafted Arizona's SB 1070 that was enjoined by a federal court and earlier this month was elected Kansas Secretary of State, unsuccessfully argued the case on behalf of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The decision was a blow to restrictionist immigration groups nationally, which have brought similar suits in Texas and Nebraska courts challenging similar statutes.  Michael A. Olivas, a University of Houston law professor, stated that

“This case, as long as it has taken, should discourage nativists from continuing to clog the courts with these nuisance suits. It has always been clear that Congress allowed the states to enact their own laws concerning who gets resident tuition and who does not, as has the Department of Homeland Security.”

He added, “Now, Congress should enact the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, to resolve these issues once and for all.”

The California statute had been designed to allow those who attended California high schools for three years and graduated to establish in-state residency, and was even more widely used by lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens, who were more than 80% of the recipients of this status. For example, of the 72 students enrolled at UC Santa Barbara who were granted this status in recent years, only three were undocumented.

For news reports on the California Supreme Court deciision, see here, here, here, and here.


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