University of California, illegal immigrant students await court decision on college subsidies

By Heather Doyle | Nov 14, 2016

LOS ANGELES — University of California and its illegal immigrant student population are awaiting the students' fate following a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, who is representing state resident and taxpayer Earl De Vries.

This case will decide whether the university’s board of regents has the authority to offer in-state tuition for illegal immigrants at all campuses. De Vries, who is represented by Judicial Watch, claimed that the regents allegedly were in violation of federal law by giving in-state tuition prices to illegal immigrants. The case was heard Nov. 3 and a decision is expected by February or March.

University of California   University of California

“Federal law prohibits in-state benefits offered to unlawfully present aliens generally, but makes an exception when awards are given by state legislative action,” Judicial Watch attorney Chris Fedeli told the Northern California Record.

The laws at play are Section 1621 of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which states that illegal immigrants can be made eligible for state or local public benefits, “only through the enactment of a state law….which affirmatively provides for such availability.”

The California Legislature has passed three laws (AB 540, AB 131 and SB 1210) supporting college-related benefits for illegal immigrants, including in-state tuition prices and financial aid benefits. But the laws only included California state universities and community colleges, not the University of California.

“Only the state legislature can award such state benefits,” Fedeli said. “The California legislature has not granted benefits to unlawfully present students. So the university is providing in-state benefits on its own without authorization from the legislature.”

The board of regents for the University of California approved its own policy allowing the same benefits for illegal immigrants attending its system. Under the California Constitution, the regents of the University of California are subject only to legislative control that may be necessary to ensure the security of its funds and compliance with the terms of the university.

Judicial Watch argues that the regents’ policy violates Section 1621 of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act. The group also argues that the decision of the regents to provide discounts to illegal immigrants was not an act of the state legislature and does not meet the requirements of the constitutional statute.

Since the benefits had nothing to do with "matters of insolvency, endowment and the awarding of contracts," which is under the legislature's authority, the legislature does not have jurisdiction to offer these benefits under the California Constitution, Fedeli said.

“The legislature did not award the benefits, since it lacked the power to do so. Without legislative authorization, the regents’ action violates federal law,” Fedeli said. “This is a taxpayer lawsuit in California. Taxpayers have the right to sue for injunctive relief if their tax money is being spent illegally. We are representing our client Earl De Vries, a California resident and taxpayer. We hope to ensure the rule of law prevails and that the regents follow the law.”

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