New York has joined Texas as the second state since early August to become the target of discrimination complaints for laws allowing illegal aliens who live in those states to go to college cheaper than out-of-state students who are U.S. citizens.
In both cases, the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) filed the formal complaints with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. That agency is responsible for investigating complaints of violations of rights arising from federal immigration laws.
WLF, a public-interest law and policy center, says the laws in effect in New York, Texas and seven other states — California, Kansas, Illinois, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Washington — offer lower in-state tuition rates for illegals who live in those states but deny them to out-of-state students with full citizenship.
The foundation claims the tuition policies violate a 1996 federal statute that says any state that offers reduced in-state tuition rates at public colleges to illegals who live in the state must provide the same lower rates to all U.S. citizens.
Richard Samp, general counsel for WLF, said the average difference in tuitions charged illegals living in-state and students from out-of-state is about $1,000 a year for those attending community colleges; $5,000 to $6,000 annually for undergraduates enrolled in large, state-run universities; and as much as $15,000 a year for students in graduate-level professional schools, such as those for medicine, dentistry, or law.
The organization began filing such complaints after a ruling in July by a federal judge in Kansas.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Rogers dismissed a lawsuit brought by two dozen out-of-state students attending public colleges in Kansas who claimed the state’s 2004 tuition law was illegal and discriminatory.
In his ruling, Judge Rogers held that DHS offered the “only enforcement possible” for the 1996 federal statute guaranteeing unbiased tuition standards. Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, sponsored the 1996 legislation and says he supports WLF’s efforts.
In Texas, about 3,700 of the state’s 1.2 million higher-education students are undocumented immigrants who pay in-state tuition, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Attempts to determine the number of illegals who pay lower in-state tuition rates at state-run colleges and universities in New York were unsuccessful.
Asked if WLF has heard anything from DHS since filing its complaint against Texas, Mr. Samp said, “Not directly.”
However, Mr. Samp said he was chagrined by a comment published in the San Antonio Express-News that was attributed to an anonymous DHS official. The individual said the department may not act on WLF’s request because the foundation has not exhausted all other legal remedies.
“There are no other legal remedies available to us,” Mr. Samp said.
A DHS spokeswoman confirmed that the agency had received WLF’s complaint against Texas and is reviewing it. But she was not certain if it has received the complaint against New York.