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SCOTUS Denies Cert on Cal. Supreme Court In-StateTuition Ruling

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 10, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Is a California tuition law that benefits illegal aliens against the law? We might never know what the Supreme Court has to say on this matter, as the high court denied the petition of certiorari in the case of Martinez v. Regents of University of California.

The controversial California Supreme Court decision made its bid to the Supreme Court earlier this year. Unfortunately, it just didn't have what it takes to get the Supreme Court nod.

So, in case you missed the hoopla over Martinez v. Regents last year, here's a recap. The State of California had a policy in place which granted reduced in-state tuition at state colleges and universities for nearly all graduates from California high schools.

Sounds great, right?

Not so fast, say critics. The law helps illegal aliens, too. In fact, a conservative immigration law group claimed that the policy gave preferential treatment to illegal aliens in violation of federal immigration law.

After all, doesn’t everyone know that the law forbids states from giving “any postsecondary benefit” to illegal aliens? Don’t be ashamed for not knowing that aspect of the law, after all, according to the Los Angeles Times, it is based on a little-known provision in a 1996 law.

Specifically, according to SCOTUSblog, the law states “that no illegal immigrant should be allowed to pay only in-state college tuition rates, unless every other non-resident, who were citizens, going to college in that state got the same privilege.”

The crux of the case before the California Supreme Court last November dealt with whether or not the state policy was in conflict with federal law. The state policy exempts anyone who attended at least three years of high school in California from the nonresident tuition fees.

The court held that the policy did not apply to unlawful aliens alone but to all who had attended a California high school for at least three years, including out-of-state residents. As such, the court held that the exemption was not based on residence in California but on other criteria.

This distinction is key because the federal law is phrased to state that the law prohibits a state from making unlawful aliens eligible ”on the basis of residence within a State.”

Unfortunately for the opponents of the California policy, they argued that the California policy was based on residence. It was a “fatal flaw” in their argument, as the court noted.

Reports the LA Times, there are currently eleven other states that permit illegal immigrants to obtain resident tuition rates while there are twelve states that have explicitly refused to grant such benefits to illegal immigrants.

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