- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Washington Legal Foundation has filed a formal discrimination complaint against the state of Texas for a policy that offers in-state college-tuition rates to illegal aliens who live in the state, but denies them to out-of-state students who are American citizens.

WLF, a public-interest law and policy center, filed the complaint two weeks ago with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which is responsible for investigating complaints of violations of rights arising from federal immigration laws.

The group charges that Texas’ tuition policy for students attending public colleges and universities violates the civil rights of U.S. citizens who live outside the state.

The same tuition policy favoring illegals is in effect in eight other states: California, New York, Utah, Illinois, Washington, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Maryland’s General Assembly passed similar legislation in 2003, but Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoed it.

Richard Samp, general counsel for WLF, said his group brought its complaint against Texas “since it was the first state to adopt a law allowing illegals to get in-state tuitions.” That law passed in 2001.



For those attending prestigious state-run colleges or universities, the “difference in tuitions charged (illegals and out-of-state students) can be $10,000 to $15,000 a year,” Mr. Samp said.

WLF says the tuition policies violate a federal statute enacted in 1996. That legislation, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, says that any state that offers discounted in-state tuition rates at public colleges to illegal aliens based on their residence in the state must provide the same discounted rates to all U.S. citizens.

In July, a federal judge in Kansas dismissed a lawsuit brought by two dozen out-of-state students attending public colleges in the state who challenged Kansas’ 2004 tuition law as a violation of federal law.

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Rogers dismissed the challenge on technical grounds. He said the plaintiffs did not have a standing to sue because they were not harmed personally by in-state tuition rates for illegal aliens.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the students were being hurt financially by having to pay $8,000 more in tuition. They have filed an appeal with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

“The federal court in Kansas said it did not think Congress intended to let people sue to enforce the [federal] law,” Mr. Samp said.

Judge Rogers specified that the “only enforcement” possible was through the Department of Homeland Security, he added.

“Texas and eight other states are in clear violation of federal law by offering in-state tuition to illegal aliens. Unless DHS steps forward and adopts measures to enforce [the law], immigration-rights groups may be emboldened to encourage yet other states to flout federal law,” Mr. Samp said.

He said he thinks WLF has a “slam-dunk” case in terms of “what the law says.” But he acknowledged it’s uncertain whether there is the “political will to enforce it.”

He cited a bill introduced last year by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, which would repeal the 1996 federal law. “So far, it hasn’t gone anywhere,” Mr. Samp said.

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