Undocumented Immigrants Eligible for In-State Tuition After SCOTUS Refuses Appeal

The United States Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the state of California’s policy of granting in-state tuition at its colleges and universities to high school graduates who are undocumented immigrants, signaling again a willingness to give states some leeway when interpreting immigration laws.

That policy had been challenged by conservative groups who called it essentially “preferential treatment” for illegal immigrants in violation of a federal law that bars 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.”

The California Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that the state’s policy of granting in-state tuition to high school grads regardless of their immigration status did not conflict with federal law.  According to the California Supreme Court the tuition benefit turned on a student’s graduation status, not his or her residency and the state was therefore free to set tuition standards as it saw fit. 

Defenders of the policy pointed to the numerous people who took advantage of the in-state tuition policy who were U.S. citizens who hailed from other states. 

Ironically, those challenging the policy accused the states of playing “semantic games” to “defeat the objectives of Congress.”  Which goes to show that conservatives support states-rights arguments up to the point where those states take action that deviate from traditional conservative platforms like anti-immigration measure, for example.

Eleven other states have laws and policies similar to California’s on the books, meaning that the refusal by the justices to hear this appeal leaves those provisions in place.  Some of those states, like Utah Nebraska also have harsh Arizona-style immigration laws either passed or pending while another twelve states have an outright ban on granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

Congress may not have the political will to act on immigration, but they are quickly running out of room to hold tight to their cowardice.  The refusal to hear the appeal is good news on many fronts, but also a reminder that something as critical as immigration reform remains a patchwork of competing laws and interests, outdated and out of size for the current needs of this country.  And continuing to refuse to act or find some humane common ground will only make this mess worse.

Take Action: Sign the petition: Tell Congress it’s time for consistent immigration reform.


photo courtesy of Barnaby via Flickr


Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago

This is awesome!

Kelvin C.
Kelvin C.6 years ago

yeah it was a for the studies to go to the leveling.. thank you.. http://www.elevenplus.co/

kenneth m.
kenneth m6 years ago

Punish the children. Punish the parents and stop wasting tax payers money. On illegals. Kids.

Robby C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Steve R - Exactly! PC terms like "undocumented immigrant" are really getting old. The term is "ILLLEGAL IMMIGRANT." AND, if someone who is illegally in this country, from a whole other country, can get in-state tuition, then why can't a LEGAL citizen (or legal immigrant) from another state get in-state tuition? I mean, out of state tuition is higher than out of country tuition? HTF does that make sense?

Ashley Meyers
Ashley Meyers6 years ago

This is why I am glad that in Illinois you have to have proof of residency in order to get financial aid grants. I pay my taxes, and I get financial aid. The money that we have for financial aid is already being cut, and people like me are getting rejected for financial aid because children of illegal immigrants whose parents don't pay much tax are getting all of the financial aid because their parents all have under the table jobs and don't claim any income.

Don N.
Donald Nelson6 years ago

I'm sorry to say that I think taxpayers fund our schools and taxpayers should be the only ones able to send their kids to a state college or university with help from the state or federal government. Yes, I know many illegals are smart, dedicated students but what's right is right.

Adobe Hacienda
Adobe Hacienda6 years ago

There is this extremely intelligent girl going to ASU who got the highest grades in the school, and her pursuits are environmental and planetary consciousness...oh, and she happens to be extremely beautiful and kind. But her parents were illegals and they don't know if they should allow her to graduate. the wetbacks really don't do a lot of harm here, they are WILLING to work and they take the jobs nobody else wants. They pay taxes and spend money into the economy, but everyone seems to only think they are gouging resources and sucking the life from the country. THINK things thru. Here in AZ, the downhill slide began when McC and Kyl came in, and became disastrous under brewer and her fearmongering pearce dude. Republicans are the problem. They do not value education either.

Elisabeth M.
lis Gunn6 years ago

No amount of punishment and deprivation of human rights, particularly regarding education will make this a better, more peaceful and tolerant world. Education is a human right. I am shocked by so many of the commentators here who want education only for themselves. After all they pay taxes and in their selfish world you only get what you pay for. (No wonder American medicine is the best but most expensive in the world and thus so many Americans can't afford it). In such a profit driven society, education for its own sake, cannot be allowed as you would soon have those "aliens", "furriners", etc rising above their station in life. Everything has a price, not always a dollar price and I for one would like to keep my humanity and decency and educate all.

Steve R.
Steve R6 years ago

Jessica - when will you give up? There is NO SUCH THING as an "undocumented immigrant"!!! Your continuing use of the term is making you look stupid!

Immigrants have DOCUMENTS - they are LEGAL - they are NOT UNDOCUMENTED!

It doesn't matter how you try to paint this ILLEGAL ALIEN problem we have - it still STINKS and it's about time more states took a firm stand!

Elliott Halom
Elliott Halom6 years ago

I don't know any Republicans that are anti-immigration just anti-illegal immigration. The person who wrote this article apparently doesn't know the difference. Illegal immigrants shouldn't even be allowed to attend college let alone be given a discount.