NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

State Laws Circumvent Federal Immigrant-Education Rule

January 15, 2003

A federal law that discourages states from treating illegal immigrant students as state residents is being challenged in a number of states. At issue is whether the children of illegal immigrants are entitled to lower tuition rates at state universities. Any state that offers in-state tuition or other higher-education benefits to undocumented immigrants must, under federal rules, do the same for out-of-state residents.

  • Texas, California, New York and Utah have passes laws that essentially allow undocumented students to enroll in public institutions as state residents.
  • Similar laws are being considered in Massachusetts, Illinois, North Carolina and Minnesota.
  • Legislation has also been introduced in Congress that would make it easier for states to exempt undocumented students from non-resident tuition if they choose to.
  • The Immigration and Naturalization Service, however, reaffirms that illegal immigrants are still subject to deportation wherever they are found.

Observers report efforts to relax immigration laws have become much more controversial since the September 11 attacks.

Supporters of efforts to enlarge education benefits for illegals claim a better education will raise their earnings power, provide more in taxes, and enable them to support themselves and their families.

Of the estimated 50,000 to 70,000 undocumented students graduating each year from U.S. high schools, few go on to college and many drop out before they reach 12th grade.

Source: Mary Beth Marklein, "Illegal Immigrants' Kids Catch a College Break," USA Today, January 14, 2003.


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