Monday, November 15, 2010

Court rules in favor of undocumented Latino students

State High Court Overturns Lower Court Ruling
By Adrian Perez, Publisher

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the legality of Assembly Bill (AB) 540, allowing any California resident, including those who are undocumented, to attend a University of California school as an in-state student.  Today’s decision strikes down a lower court ruling that found AB 540 gave preferential treatment to undocumented students.  The 28-page decision supports the intent of AB 540 of eliminating out-of-state tuition fees for undocumented students, which could have added more than $20,000 in additional fees. 

The case, Martinez v. Regents of the University of California, attracted national attention as the immigration debate became a political rallying cry for many Republican candidates, which created additional public fervor.   However, in its finding, the Supreme Court found that AB 540 does not provide any preferential treatment, but instead reinforces the minimum requirements for admission into the UC system.

"The court correctly rejected a misguided and politically-motivated campaign that attacked the state's education policy and tried to stifle the hopes and intellectual ambitions of the students of California,” said Lucas Guttentag, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project.  “This lawsuit and similar lawsuits in other states are shortsighted, mean-spirited and driven purely by politics. We hope the court's decision will send an unmistakable message that dedicated college students should not be used as pawns for political purposes."

In addition to allowing undocumented students, the Court concluded that California’s tuition waiver met federal requirements for allowing the State to provide a post-secondary education tuition waiver to graduates of California high schools.

"This important and beneficial ruling vindicates the careful process followed in drafting AB 540 to ensure that it complies with federal law,” says Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.  “The Court's decision means that California's institutions of higher education will continue to be strengthened by the inclusion of some of our state's brightest and most successful students, who simply lack legal status due to the nation's failure to enact the widely-supported DREAM Act." 

In its decision, the Court explained that, even though the federal government has established some restrictions on state power, states retain the power to enable undocumented students to have meaningful access to college education.

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