WASHINGTON –– The U.S. Supreme Court declined June 6 to hear an appeal of a decade-old California law that allows undocumented immigrants and others without state residency to attend college at in-state tuition rates.
The action allows the policy to continue.
Without comment, the court declined to hear the appeal of a November ruling by the California Supreme Court upholding the statute. The court often declines to intervene in issues until there are rulings from lower federal courts or state supreme courts that are in conflict on matters of federal law.
Since January 2002, California has allowed students to pay lower in-state tuition if they graduated from a California high school after attending the school for three or more years.
In the case of students without lawful immigration status, California requires them to file to legalize their status as soon as possible and requires that information about immigration status remain confidential.
Eleven other states have similar laws. In Maryland, which passed its version this year, opponents are gathering signatures to put a question on the 2012 ballot seeking to repeal the law.
Another 12 states explicitly refuse to allow in-state tuition for people who are not in the country legally.
The California Supreme Court ruled that the law did not conflict with a federal prohibition on states granting residency status to undocumented immigrants, because it also allows U.S. citizens who meet its provisions to attend California colleges at in-state rates even though they lack state residency.
The Los Angeles Times reported that about 41,000 students took advantage of the provision last year, with the vast majority of them attending community colleges. The paper said that in 2009, 2,019 university students paid in-state tuition under the law, with about 600 of them believed to lack legal immigration status.
Nationally, legislation known as the DREAM Act would allow students who were brought to the United States as children the chance to legalize their immigration status by attending college or serving in the U.S. military. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act passed the House in 2010 but failed to get the 60 votes necessary to override a filibuster threat in the Senate.
It was reintroduced in the Senate May 11.