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Cristina Jimenez

California Supreme Court to Determine Future of Undocumented Students

The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case over the constitutionality of a state law (AB 540) that allows undocumented students who graduate from state high schools to pay in-state tuition at public universities.

The lawsuit filed by parents and out-of –state students who attended California universities argues that AB 540 violates federal law by granting in-state tuition to undocumented students while not offering the same fees to students outside of California. Wonder who represents these students? Kris Kobach, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. Clearly, Republicans don’t seem to get that the anti-immigrant card, as pointed out by Karl Rove, is suicidal. But going back to this in-state tuition battle let me point out a couple of important facts that have been missing from this debate.

Out-of-state tuition is four times higher than in-state. To qualify for in-state tuition, students must be residents of the state or demonstrate that they have resided in the state for at least one year before applying to school. Students involved in the lawsuit were not California residents at the time they were admitted to the University of California system. However, like other out-of-state students, they qualified for in-state tuition after living in the state for a year.

Undocumented students who qualify for in-state tuition have grown up in California. Most of them migrate with their families at an early age and have lived in the state most of their lives. By all means, they are residents of the state. To be eligible for in-state tuition, they must meet the following: 1) Attended a California high school for three years, 2) Graduated from a California high school, 3) Signed an affidavit saying they will gain permanent immigration status as soon as they become eligible.

Let’s also keep in mind that unlike students who are U.S citizens or documented immigrants, undocumented students do not have access to financial aid, loans, and can’t work legally to pay for their studies. Most of these students, some of them who graduate high school with honors, work two to three low-wage jobs to pay for their education--evidently, not an easy journey.

The decision of the court would have a major impact on the lives of these students and the broader immigration debate. Like California, New York, Texas, and other seven states allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. The debate over in-state tuition in California only highlights even more the need for the DREAM Act—a proposed legislation that would allow children who entered the country before age 16 and graduate from high school to get on a path to citizenship.

It is in the Justices hands to decide whether we rather provide these students the opportunity to get an education and contribute to our society or create an under class that lives in the shadows and becomes part of the underground economy.

Cristina Jimenez: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 2:11 PM, Jan 06, 2009 in Education | Immigration
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