Colleges are within their rights to deny admission to illegal immigrants, a federal judge ruled yesterday in a lawsuit against Virginia public universities.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria dismisses the core claim of an immigrant-rights coalition that filed suit against the schools.
The coalition had argued that the schools’ policy to deny admission to illegal aliens unconstitutionally usurped the role of the federal government in regulating immigration.
The lawsuit will be allowed to go forward, though on the plaintiffs’ claim that the colleges are not using federal standards to determine which applicants are illegal aliens. The lawsuit says, for instance, that students with temporary legal status are being denied admission because they are perceived to have illegal status.
The lawsuit was prompted by an advisory opinion from Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore that recommended against enrolling illegal aliens. Latino-rights groups argued that the policy hurt children whose illegal status was no fault of their own, but often resulted from the decisions of their parents.
Mr. Kilgore has argued that the benefits of higher education should be reserved for those who adhere to U.S. immigration law and are in the country legally.
The colleges named in the lawsuit are the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, James Madison University and Northern Virginia Community College.
Judge Ellis’ 43-page ruling indicates that all seven schools are following Mr. Kilgore’s advice and denying admission to illegal aliens. That represents a change of course for Northern Virginia Community College, which had initially indicated it would enroll such students despite Mr. Kilgore’s recommendation.
Mr. Kilgore said yesterday he is pleased with Judge Ellis’ ruling.
“Millions of immigrants have come to our shores and gone through the proper process to improve their lives and the lives of their families. I continue to believe that it is not too much to ask that people obey the laws of our society before they take advantage of what our society has to offer,” he said.
Tisha Tallman, a spokeswoman for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which helped file the lawsuit, said her group was reviewing the decision and would consult with its clients about the next step.
The lawsuit was initially filed on behalf of five students who sought to remain anonymous. Judge Ellis ruled that the plaintiffs could not proceed anonymously, so two plaintiffs made their names public.