Martinez v. Regents of the University of California
IRLI brought this class action lawsuit on behalf of U.S. citizens from states other than California who must pay nonresident tuition rates at California colleges against state officials to challenge a California law that grants in-state tuition to illegal aliens and discriminates against U.S. citizens and nationals in violation of federal law. In-state tuition is one of the most valuable public benefits that a State can bestow. In 2010, the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at the University of California at Berkeley was $11,439.50 per semester. Over four years, that difference is $91,422 per student. In other words, non-resident U.S. citizen students have to pay nearly $100,000 more in tuition payments to earn an undergraduate degree from Berkeley than do illegal aliens enrolled at taxpayer-subsidized resident rates. In 2010, these subsidies for illegal aliens cost the taxpayers over $208 million every year.
In 1996, Congress passed a law that prohibits a state from giving illegal aliens “postsecondary education benefits on the basis of residence,” unless the state also gives those same benefits to every U.S. citizen student, regardless of their residency. The legislative history shows that Congress wanted to make it fiscally prohibitive for states to give in-state tuition or other financial aid to illegal aliens. But in 2001, the California legislature irresponsibly created a legal loophole which makes illegal aliens who attend a California high school for three years eligible for the expensive tuition subsidies.
In its lawsuit, IRLI argued that the California law was both expressly and implicitly preempted by federal law, specifically, 8 U.S.C. § 1621, which prohibits state and local public benefits from being offered to illegal aliens unless the state passes a law granting such benefits and referencing the federal exception, and 8 U.S.C. § 1623, which requires states to grant the same post-secondary education benefits to all citizens and nationals of the U.S. as it does to illegal aliens.