Anti-Immigration Group Sues Texas Colleges

Cameron Langford, Courthouse News Service, December 17, 2009

Texas colleges and universities are violating federal law by classifying 8,000 undocumented immigrant students as state residents and allowing them to pay discounted in-state tuition and receive financial aid, the Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas claims in Harris County Court.

Congress enacted legislation to prevent states from being more generous with tuition and aid to undocumented aliens than they are to U.S. citizens who come from other states, the coalition says. It claims Texas is defying this law by letting immigrants participate in state grant programs and pay state tuition rates.

“Texas law, which allows illegal aliens to qualify as Texas residents for purposes of tuition and financial aid but denies resident tuition and state financial aid to nonresident students, conflicts with both the plain language and the stated purpose of [federal law],” the complaint states.

Texas law allows immigrants whose parents, or they themselves, established a home in the state 1 year before the start of an academic term to qualify as residents, according to the complaint. In addition, undocumented immigrants who graduate from a Texas high school can quality as residents, the coalition says.

Defendants in what the coalition calls its “taxpayers’ complaint” include the State of Texas, state Comptroller Susan Combs, and the University of Houston System and its Chancellor Renu Khator. The Houston Community College System and its Chancellor Mary Spangler also are defendants, as are the Lone Star College System and Chancellor Richard Carpenter.

The coalition wants an order declaring that “in Texas an illegal alien is not eligible for discounted in-state tuition or any form of state financial aid.”

And it wants the defendants to produce all documents related to illegal immigrants within 50 days. The coalition is represented by Steven Smith of the Austin-based Texas Legal Foundation.

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