Subsidizing Tuition for Illegal Aliens in California Makes No Sense

Published on November 23rd, 2010

By Maria Fotopoulos
November 17, 2010

There is a very Kafkaesque feel to this week’s decision by the California Supreme Court to allow illegal aliens who graduated from state high schools to continue receiving in-state tuition at California’s public universities and colleges.

So, let’s get this straight. Thousands of people in California public colleges and universities are in the state and the country illegally. They are rewarded for this with in-state tuition rates, while those in the country legally – but not California residents – pay higher rates to attend California schools. Yes, that’s definitely Kafkaesque.

Here’s the back-story.

In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which says that those in the U.S. unlawfully are not entitled to postsecondary education benefits on the basis of residence in a state unless U.S. citizens or nationals are eligible for the same benefits. The intent seems clear – no rewards for illegal behavior.

But, defying logic, California’s Supreme Court chose to ignore this and uphold AB 540 which said that attending a California high school for three years was sufficient status to receive in-state tuition. AB 540, which has been called a blatant attempt to create a loophole in federal law, went into effect for the ’02-’03 school year essentially giving illegal aliens in California a significant tuition break over out-of-state students.

This break now equals approximately $20,000 at University of California or $11,000 at California State schools per year. In total, according to the Immigration Reform Law Institute, illegal aliens receive more than $200 million annually in California tuition benefits. Ten other states give preferential tuition to illegal immigrants as well. Nationwide the number is estimated at 65,000, which translates to perhaps as much as $500 million in subsidized tuition.

In California, add in other benefits and services, and illegal aliens and their family members here take in more than $21 billion each year.

The California decision is another example of California taxpayers being told to pay more of the costs for a large and growing illegal immigrant population. These are costs the state cannot afford. California’s budget deficit has expanded (again) to $25.4 billion through June 2011.

Likely, the California decision will be challenged. On the face of it, the decision seems wrong and yet another indicator of how our legal system fails American citizens.

First, we fail to enforce our immigration laws, and we don’t deport those in the country illegally. The result then is millions of people in the U.S. illegally, with myriad consequences – such as this knotted up college tuition issue – none of which would arise if we enforced our immigration laws. Sound circular? It is, and it’s time for California to stop living in a Kafka novel.

Maria Fotopoulos is a Senior Writing Fellow for the Santa Barbara-based organization, Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS | capsweb.org), where she writes about the population-sustainability connection. Reach her at [email protected], on Twitter at TurboDog50 and Facebook at Maria K. Fotopoulos.

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