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In July 2004, a group of U.S. citizen students from out of state filed suit in federal court in Kansas to enjoin the state from providing in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens. The case is currently before the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, in December 2005, another group of U.S.-citizen students filed a similar suit in California state court. That case is before the California Court of Appeals.

Now, just when it looks like U.S. citizens might finally bring the lawbreaking states into line, the DREAM Act provisions of the Senate immigration bill would change federal law and allow states to offer in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens currently in the country.

On top of this, DREAM Act beneficiaries would enjoy a special fast track to green-card status and citizenship. Illegal aliens younger than 30 who entered the country before age 16 and subsequently enrolled in college would be eligible for green cards in only three years — even if they haven’t completed their degrees. No such fast track exists for law-abiding foreign students.

The illegal aliens would also be eligible for federal student loans and federal work-study programs — another benefit that law-abiding foreign students cannot receive. And all of it comes at taxpayer expense.

A consistent theme emerges: Illegal aliens are treated much more favorably than aliens who follow the law. There is no penalty for illegal behavior.

The Senate bill applies the same distorted logic to the 10 states that have defied federal law simply because they don’t like it. The DREAM Act would overlook their offense and invite other states to follow their lead.

One thing we have learned in the struggle to enforce our nation’s immigration laws is that states cannot be allowed to undermine the efforts of the federal government to enforce the law. Only if all levels of government are working in concert to uphold the rule of law can it be fully restored.

Kris W. Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law, is representing the U.S. citizen plaintiffs in the Kansas and California lawsuits. He served as counsel to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft during 2001-2003 and was the attorney general’s chief adviser on immigration law and border security.