Some good news for the estimated 25,000 undocumented students who receive in-state tuition in California: The California Supreme Court ruledunanimously in favor of the state’s law allowing illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition rates at public universities. California is one of 10 statesthat allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition as long as they meet other requirements. In California, that means attending high school in the state for at least three years. But an anti-illegal immigration group brought a suit against the state on behalf of 42 out-of-state students ineligible for in-state tuition, claiming the law violated a federal ban on educational benefits based on residency for illegal immigrants. A legal challenge was led by Kris Kobach, secretary of state-elect for Kansas and an immigration hardliner who helped draft Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law. Kobach attempteda similar legal challenge against in-state tuition for undocumented students in Kansas, but that lawsuit failed in 2009. This time, Kobach won the lawsuit in the first round, but the state Supreme Court now shut down his effort. In a rulingwritten by Justice Ming W. Chin, the Court found the law was constitutional because American citizens who attended at least three years of high school in the state are also eligible for in-state tuition.
“That section does not treat citizens worse than unlawful aliens,” Chin wrote. “It grants the same exemption to all who qualify, whether they are nonresident citizens or resident unlawful aliens.”