Basically, AB 540 — the law that grants undocumented students in-state tuition at California’s public colleges and universities — may be in jeopardy. See, in 2005 some out-of-state students challenged the legality of AB 540. The students who filed the lawsuit contend that it it is illegal for undocumented immigrants to have the right to in-state tuition, while as US citizens from another state, they have to pay more. In 2006, the lawsuit was dismissed by Yolo County Superior Court. As one would expect, the plaintiffs appealed. On Monday, the state appellate court issued an opinion that AB 540 is in conflict with federal law.
And that’s where we’re at now.
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center issued a press release saying we shouldn’t begin panicking just yet. The lawsuit against AB 540 will go back to the lower court. If the decision is made to overturn AB 540, it will likely be tied up in appeals for a number of years. AB 540 is still in tact, and will remain that way for some years.
The struggle for access to higher education for undocumented students doesn’t end there. While AB 540 does grant them in-state tuition, that’s still about $9,000 most students do not have. AB 540 students are ineligible for financial aid. Although the Federal DREAM Act has been introduced in each session of Congress since 2001, it has still not been approved. Last year, Congress tried to make it more attractive by hyping the military aspect of the DREAM Act. However, the bill failed in the Senate when they did not get enough votes to move out of debate. Last year, the California Dream Act, which would have given undocumented students access to some forms of financial aid was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.
A new version of the California Dream Act (SB 1301) is currently on the Governor’s desk waiting to signed. To find out more and sign the petition supporting SB 1301, check out El Random Hero’s post at LA Eastside.
I’ve written about this issue several times. For past posts, check here.