WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to California's policy of granting reduced, in-state tuition at its colleges and universities to graduates of its high schools who are illegal immigrants.
The justices turned down an appeal from lawyers for the conservative Washington-based Immigration Reform Law Institute, which contended "preferential treatment" for illegal immigrants violated federal immigration law. They cited a little-known provision in a 1986 law that barred states from giving "any postsecondary benefit" to an "alien who is not lawfully present in the United States on the basis of residence within a state."
But last year, in the first ruling of its kind, the California Supreme Court said the state's policy did not conflict with federal law because the tuition benefit turned on a student's high school graduation, not his or her residency. In the 2001 law, the state said it would give in-state tuition to a qualified student who attended a high school in California for three years and graduated.
California education officials said many of those who took advantage of its in-state tuition policy were U.S. citizens who hailed from other states. In 2009, the 10-campus UC system said 2,019 students paid in-state tuition under the terms of the state law. Of these, about 600 were believed to be illegal immigrants.
The court's action turning down the appeal is not an official ruling, but it leaves in place laws in 11 other states that permit illegal immigrants to obtain in-state tuition. They are Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.