Unlawful Tuition Policy for Illegal Aliens Challenged
Judicial Watch continued its aggressive, nationwide campaign against illegal alien sanctuary policies. Last Monday, I sent a letter to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for New Jersey’s County College of Morris (CCM) challenging the school’s policy of providing discounted tuition for “undocumented” aliens.
And I got a quick response, too. CCM informed Judicial Watch that it will reevaluate its illegal alien tuition policy on April 20, 2011.
As I noted in my letter — illegal aliens are ineligible for state and local public benefits, such as discounted tuition, under federal law:
There is no way to reconcile CCM’s policy with federal law. The policy provides a public benefit to individuals who are clearly ineligible for benefits [under federal law], and New Jersey has not authorized the provision of such benefits...CCM may not ignore federal laws when those laws are not consistent with its own policy preferences. We hope that CCM will reevaluate its new policy and conform it to the requirements of federal law.
Judicial Watch was tipped off to CCM’s illegal policy by the February 18, 2011, edition of The New Jersey Star-Ledger:
For the first time in nearly a decade, illegal immigrants will be allowed to take classes at the County College of Morris in a policy change that is drawing praise from some education officials and sharp criticism from immigration policy activists.
The trustees at the Randolph-based college voted 7-1 earlier this week to reverse a rule barring undocumented students, school officials said. Starting this summer, the public two-year college will be one of the first schools in New Jersey to openly acknowledge it is enrolling illegal immigrants and allowing them to pay the same tuition rate as other county residents.
(Prior to the policy change CCM had barred illegal aliens from admission to the school.)
The article piqued the interest of our lawyers and investigators, who obtained a copy of the new CCM admissions policy. And sure enough, it clearly states that any illegal alien who graduated from an American high school (or possesses a GED equivalent), is under the age of 35, and has lived in the U.S. for five consecutive years, is eligible for admission. The policy further stipulates that illegal alien students may pay a discounted in-county tuition rate!
Now, as I said earlier, federal law states that unlawfully present aliens generally are ineligible for state or local public benefits, including postsecondary education benefits, such as reduced tuition, unless a state has enacted a law affirmatively providing for such eligibility. The State of New Jersey has enacted no such law. CCM simply decided to act on its own without proper legal authority.
Obviously, we can’t have colleges and universities ignoring federal law because they may have sympathies for a certain student population. And it is our hope that after considering the federal statutes at issue that the Board of Trustees will bring its tuition policy in line with federal law when it “reevaluates” that policy next week.
Our challenge to CCM is not the first attempt we have made to stop institutions of higher education from doling out perks to illegal aliens. (And it won’t be the last, as we are considering similar challenges in other states, including Utah and California.) You may recall that on January 20, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a taxpayer lawsuit against the Board of Trustees of Maryland’s Montgomery College for unlawfully allowing discounted “in county” tuition rates for students who graduate from Montgomery County public high schools, regardless of their place of residency or immigration status.
The lawsuit argued that Montgomery College’s tuition policy violates both Maryland and federal law and places a substantial financial burden on Montgomery County taxpayers, who subsidize the cost of students attending the community college. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Montgomery County taxpayers Michael Lee Philips, Patricia Fenati and David Drake in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.
In an attempt to moot the legal challenge, the Maryland legislature passed legislation this week authorizing illegal aliens to obtain taxpayer-funded in-state tuition benefits. (Liberals run the Maryland State Legislature so this did not come is a big surprise.) The good news is that this affront to the rule of law may be subject to a voter referendum.
I expect that regular Maryland voters may wonder why their state politicians (and the radical illegal alien advocates behind them) would waste tax dollars this way. As I wrote the Washington Post:
[T]o use millions in tax dollars to provide these individuals tuition benefits not available to lawful U.S. residents (including legal immigrants) who live outside Maryland is a waste of limited resources.
If the rule of law means anything, states will not use tax money to provide aid and comfort to those who reside here in knowing violation of the law. And if the goal of Maryland legislators is to help individuals violate federal and state laws regarding illegal immigration, there are cheaper ways to do it.
Judicial Watch tries to leave no stone unturned when it comes to confronting sanctuary cities and states that roll out the welcome mat for illegal aliens (with the full endorsement of the Obama administration.)