Last June 6, 2011, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case to challenge California’s AB 450. This law provides undocumented immigrant youth in the state to attend state colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates.
The challenge was raised because of the claim of unequal protection of the laws by allowing undocumented immigrant youth to claim the benefits of reduced tuition in California’s higher education institutions. Under the law, in order to benefit from the law, students must attend a California high school for three years and graduate from that school. The other requirement is the affidavit promising application for US residence at the soonest possible time.
When an undocumented alien complies with these requisites, they would be granted tuition discounts like California residents. This would mean great savings for the individual, with in-state tuition amounting to what can cost only one-third of the original cost if the individual was from out of state.
The challenge was put forth by the Immigration Reform Law Institute, whose membership comprises of students who are US citizens and non-California residents. Their petition claims that there is an unjust conferment of benefits to illegal immigrants because of residency. With this, illegal immigrants are treated better than out of state legal residents when applying for education in California’s public colleges and universities. They claim with the discounts enjoyed by in-state illegal immigrants, they are being prevented from getting a full education. They further allege that California spends over $208 million to subsidize the tuition of undocumented and illegal aliens.
Currently, there are eleven other states that have similar systems to California’s AB 540. These states are Illinois, New York, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah and Washington. The High Court’s refusal to hear this petition would allow other states to pass the same kind of system without fear of challenge. These states to implement this system are Maryland, Connecticut, Oregon and Rhode Island.
On the other end of the spectrum, other states are vehement in blocking any legislation similar to AB 540 from passing in their jurisdictions. Alabama has recently passed legislation barring in-state tuition for undocumented students and even going as far as penalizing institutions found to have illegal aliens in their student populations. Georgia has passed a regulation in its school system preventing admission of undocumented youth. South Carolina has banned illegal immigrants from attending its state institutions while Massachusetts is undergoing a voter referendum on the matter.
But for now, AB 540 stands in full force and effect, allowing undocumented youth in California a glimmer of hope for their future with a college education towards a lawful status.