Judicial Watch: Taxpayer Appeal Continues Over Decision Allowing University of California Regents to Give In-State Tuition to Illegal Aliens
New brief argues that UC Board of Regents violates federal law by spending taxpayer funds to provide in-state tuition, student loans, and financial aid to illegal aliens
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch filed a reply brief in its ongoing appeal of a lower California state court ruling allowing the University of California Regents to give as much as $27.1 million in non-resident tuition waivers and financial aid to illegal alien students attending University of California schools. The appeal was filed in litigation brought on behalf of Earl De Vries, a legal resident and taxpayer of California (Earl De Vries v Regents of the University of California (BC555614)). The appeal is now fully briefed before the California Court of Appeal and awaiting oral arguments, which should occur in late summer or fall of 2016.
In August 2014, Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of De Vries in the L.A. County Superior Court, asking the court to halt the estimated annual $19.6 million in non-resident tuition waivers; $4.3 million in taxpayer-funded grants and scholarships; and $3.2 million in state loans the Regents have started giving illegal alien students. Under California law, taxpayers have the right to sue government officials to prevent unlawful expenditures of taxpayer funds and taxpayer-financed resources.
Under the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act” passed by Congress in 1996, unlawfully present aliens are ineligible for state or local public benefits. The only exception to this federal law is when a state “affirmatively provides for such eligibility” to illegal aliens, which states may do “only through the enactment of a State law …”
The California State Legislature passed statutes granting such tuition benefits to California State University students and California Community College students, but it was forbidden to do so for University of California students. Under the California Constitution, the UC Board of Regents is “entirely independent” of the state legislature in policy matters, so there is no lawful way for the California legislature to allow or require the University of California to provide public benefits to illegal aliens.
In March 2015, the Superior Court ruled that the UC Board of Regents’ policies themselves (and not the state statutes) are the “state laws” that affirmatively provide the benefits to UC students in satisfaction of federal law and dismissed the lawsuit. In November 2015, Judicial Watch filed its opening appellate brief with the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, arguing that the trial court wrongly read extra words into Congress’ statute. Specifically, the brief argues that the federal statute in question “does not say ‘state law or administrative rule, regulation or policy.’ It says ‘State law.’ This means an enactment of the state legislature.”
In its March 22 appellant’s reply brief, Judicial Watch highlights for its client how the appointed UC Board of Regents has not been granted the same rights as a state legislature elected by voters under federal law:
When Congress wrote “only through the enactment of a state law” can unlawfully present aliens receive benefits, that is precisely what it meant. This means the exercise of state legislative power…The Regents argue this is not what Congress really meant, but rather it meant any exercise of state lawmaking power, be it legislative, executive, judicial, or by independent board. Those arguments are unavailing. Congress’ unique word choices and other evidence of Congressional intent behind [the federal law] prove that the statute is limited to representative or democratic state legislative acts only
“UC Regents officials think they can rewrite the law according to their personal whims and provide illegal aliens in-state tuition benefits contrary to law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Public officials on the UC Board of Regents need to put aside politics and obey both federal law and the California Constitution. They have no right to play politics at taxpayers’ expense.”
“Taxpaying California citizens deserve to have their hard-earned money spent lawfully,” said De Vries, “What the Regents are doing is not only illegal, it’s unfair to taxpayers.”