Judicial Watch • Ariz. Saves Millions Cutting Illegal Immigrant Perks

Ariz. Saves Millions Cutting Illegal Immigrant Perks

Ariz. Saves Millions Cutting Illegal Immigrant Perks

AUGUST 10, 2009


A U.S. border state that stopped giving illegal immigrants discounted public college tuition a few years ago reports saving millions of dollars after terminating the program that essentially subsidized illegal behavior with public money.

Fed up with the toll that illegal aliens were having on its state, Arizona voters overwhelmingly passed a law in late 2006 to deny them heavily discounted resident college tuition and other state-funded benefits draining the budget. Approved by more than 70% of voters, the measure also requires state agencies to verify the immigration status of applicants for public services such as child care and adult education as well as financial aide for college students.

Regardless, thousands of illegal aliens continue to annually apply for the costly perks which used to cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year. Since the law passed more than 3,400 community college students and nearly 300 university students paid the much higher nonresident tuition because they couldn’t prove they were in the country legally.

This represented a savings of nearly $8 million for one of the state’s community college districts (Maricopa County Community College District) alone. Combined with Arizona’s other junior college districts and its three public universities the savings are estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. 

Arizona’s State Treasurer says the money is being appropriately used for programs that benefit legal residents rather than to subsidize the education of those who live in the state illegally. A handful of other states—including Texas, California, Utah, Maryland and Wisconsin—offer illegal immigrants discounted tuition at public colleges. 

Earlier this month, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition breaks federal law though the state annually grants the coveted benefit to thousands of undocumented students. The opinion was a no brainer considering that a 1996 immigration reform law forbids states from giving illegal aliens in-state tuition unless it provides the same for all students regardless of residency. 

It was that law that led a group of out-of-state students to successfully challenge the practice in California. The students argued that California’s public university and community college system violated the law by charging them higher tuition and fees than undocumented immigrants. A state appellate court ruled in favor of the American students and the case is pending before the sate Supreme Court.

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