Three illegal immigrants, shielded from deportation by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, are suing three Missouri colleges, charging the schools’ tuition is too high.
The Missouri branch of the American Civil Liberties Union filed three separate suits on behalf of the unnamed illegal immigrant students against the University of Missouri, St. Louis Community College and the Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City this week calling for the students to receive in-state tuition rates.
“It is shameful to treat DACA students like outcasts, when they have lived, worked and gone to schools in this country since they were children,” Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement.
At issue is the preamble to an education appropriations bill Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed this year.
The preamble to the legislation states:
[T]hat no funds shall be expended at public institutions of higher education that offer a tuition rate to any student with an unlawful immigration status in the United States that is less than the tuition rate charged to international students, and further provided that no scholarship funds shall be expended on behalf of students with an unlawful immigration status in the United States.
The ACLU argues that the students are being charged higher tuition rates due to the preamble, however, the group claims, the preamble is not enforceable, non-binding, and should not apply to their illegal immigrant clients.
“It is a well-established rule of statutory interpretation that preambles to statutes do not create substantive law,” the lawsuits state. “When statutes are ambiguous, preambles can be used to interpret statutory enactments but, on their own, preambles are not binding statutory authority. ”
Regardless of the interpretation, the ACLU says public colleges and universities should be welcoming to those willing to work hard.
“Our Missouri public institutions of higher learning exist to open the doors of opportunity to hard-working students striving to get ahead. Now, there are extreme financial burdens being put on the backs of students already struggling to achieve their goals of higher education,” Jeffrey A. Mittman, the group’s executive director, added. “To punish students who had no say in how they arrived in this country is not only mean-spirited, it is against the law.”