IRLI Challenges Nebraska Illegal Tuition Scheme

Press Releases

January 25, 2010

Jefferson County Taxpayers Sue to Stop Colleges from Giving In-State Tuition to Illegal Aliens

The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) today sued the Board of Regents for the University of NebraskaSystem, the Board of Governors for the State College System, and the Board of Governors for each of the Nebraska Community Colleges to end the practice of public universities offering in-state tuition to illegal aliens at the expense of Nebraska taxpayers.

A 2006 state law made illegal aliens living in Nebraska eligible for in-state tuition. In-state tuition only covers a part of the expense of university study and is heavily subsidized by public funds. At stake are millions of dollars in improper tuition fees.

Federal law prohibits making illegal aliens eligible for any postsecondary education benefits unless a state gives the same benefits to all American citizens, regardless of residency.

The plaintiffs are taxpayers from Jefferson County. Kris Kobach, IRLI Senior Counsel, will argue the case for the citizens. “This lawsuit not only saves Nebraska taxpayers money, it also vindicates Governor Heineman,” said Kobach. Gov. Heineman vetoed the bill in 2005, stating that it would violate federal law, but the Legislature overrode his veto.

In a related case brought by IRLI on behalf of U.S. citizen students, a California Appeals Court held in 2008 that a nearly identicalCalifornia measure violated federal law and the U.S. Constitution. That case is now pending before the California Supreme Court. Kobach, who is lead counsel in both cases, added, “It is a great injustice when US citizens who have always obeyed the law are charged more in tuition than aliens whose very presence in the United States is a violation of federal law.”

Ten states have enacted measures like Nebraska’s in defiance of federal law. However, four of those laws have now been challenged in court, including Nebraska’s. Oklahoma partially repealed its law in 2007, and bills to repeal the laws in Utah and Kansas have been introduced.

“Through legal action by public interest lawyers or repeal legislation like the bill just introduced by Senator Janssen of Fremont, the states are beginning to step back from open defiance of the Constitution and repudiate unlawful policies that treat illegal aliens better than American citizens,” said IRLI General CounselMike Hethmon.

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