JUNE 20, 2012
A public university violated federal and state law when it created a special category of discounted tuition for illegal immigrants, according to a formal opinion issued this week by Colorado’s Attorney General.
The decision comes days after Judicial Watch called attention to the matter with a formal request to immediately rescind the illegal perk created by the taxpayer-funded school, Metropolitan State College of Denver. In a hard-hitting letter to the Board of Trustees, JW pointed out that the special category of tuition violates both federal and state law.
“In approving this new category of tuition, the College recognized that these students would otherwise be required to pay full non-resident tuition because of their inability to demonstrate lawful presence in the United States,” JW wrote, further stating that the move “constitutes an act beyond the powers of the board.” That’s because under federal law illegal immigrants are ineligible for state or local public benefits, including post-secondary education benefits unless a state enacts a measure affirmatively granting the perk.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers agrees in an eight-page formal opinion lambasting Metro State, a comprehensive college with an enrollment of about 24,000 that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of fields. A single institution, such as Metro State, cannot unilaterally create a new tuition classification without legislative approval, according to the AG’s opinion.
“State law requires that each agency or political subdivision of the state shall verify the lawful presence in the United States of each natural person eighteen years of age or older who applies for state or local public benefits,” the AG says. “It is unlawful for an agency or a political subdivision of the state to provide a federal public benefit or a state or local public benefit in violation of this section.”
Federal law likewise declares that anyone not legally in the country “is not eligible for any State or local public benefit,” the opinion continues. “As a final matter, Metro State’s proposal raises another issue: whether a state-supported higher-education institution can, without approval from the General Assembly, create an entirely new tuition classification applicable to Colorado students.” The answer, in a nutshell, is no though the AG offers a detailed explanation to back it.
In a press release announcing the opinion, Suthers blasts Metro State for proceeding on its own to create a new tuition category despite the legislature’s repeated rejection of specific authorizing legislation. “After carefully reviewing the state and federal law in this area, my office has concluded that Colorado’s state-supported higher-education institutions cannot create discounted tuition categories for students who are unable to prove their lawful presence in the United States,” the Attorney General said, reminding that Colorado’s General Assembly has “repeatedly declined to legislate in this area.”
A handful of states—including Texas, California, Utah, Washington and New York— have enacted measures to give illegal aliens discounted tuition at all public colleges and universities. In Texas and California the measures have been legally challenged and at least three states—Georgia, Oklahoma and Arizona—have solved the contentious issue by creating policies banning the controversial perk.
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