House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) joined the Washington Legal Foundation in filing an amicus brief this week urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review Martinez vs. Regents of the University of California.
At issue in the case is whether the State of California may provide favorable in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants without providing the same favorable rates to non-resident U.S. citizens. Eleven other states have also enacted similar statutes offering in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants. A 1996 federal law limits "eligibility for preferential treatment of aliens not lawfully present on the basis of residence for higher education benefits." Chairman Lamar Smith was a co-author of this law and released the statement below following the filing of the amicus brief.
Chairman Smith: "We should not reward illegal behavior. It is unfair to tell American parents who are not from California but have paid taxes all their lives that they have to pay higher tuition bills to send their children to college there than do illegal immigrants. It would be equally unfair to force California parents to pay more than illegal immigrants to send their kids to school in other states. There are a limited number of spaces at U.S. universities and they should go to citizens. Americans and legal immigrants, not those who violate federal law, should be first in line for in-state tuition rates."
The challenge was brought by U.S. citizen Robert Martinez and a number of other out-of-state U.S. citizens who believe California's grant of in-state tuition to illegal immigrants violates federal law. California's Superior Court determined that Martinez was not entitled to a trial. The California Court of Appeal disagreed, finding that the plaintiffs had stated claims for violations of both their statutory and constitutional rights. The California Supreme Court reversed and ordered the case dismissed. The amicus brief filed today asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review the in-state college tuition issue.