Tuesday, December 13, 2016
C.A. Upholds University of California Benefits For Undocumented Immigrants
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Legislature has rendered “undocumented immigrants” attending the University of California eligible for tuition, financial aid, and student loans benefits, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
It rejected the contention of taxpayer Earl De Vries, represented by the conservative Judicial Watch, Inc., that providing those benefits contravenes federal law.
Under 8 U.S.C. §1621(d), enacted in 1996, such benefits may be conferred “only through the enactment of a State law...which affirmatively provides for such eligibility.”
According to De Vries’ opening brief:
“No State law affirmatively provides unlawfully present aliens enrolled at UC schools with eligibility for the benefits at issue, and yet UC’s Board of Regents…is providing these benefits to the students.”
“Under the California Constitution…, the Legislature lacks authority over UC and its Regents. The Regents are ‘subject only to such legislative control as may be necessary to ensure the security of its funds and compliance with the terms of the endowments of the university and such competitive bidding procedures as may be made applicable to the university by statute.’ Cal. Const., art. IX. § 9(a). So while the Legislature has enacted ‘state laws’ providing unlawfully present aliens with tuition, financial aid, and student loan benefits to attend California State University…and California Community Colleges…, it did not and could not do so with respect to UC students. California chose to place UC and the Regents beyond ordinary legislative controls. The State cannot now have it both ways. The Regents’ benefits are illegal.”
The Legislature enacted three statutes authorizing postsecondary education benefits for undocumented immigrants: A.B. 540 (2001, tuition), A.B. 131 (2011, financial aid), and S.B. 1210 (2014, loans). This was followed by the Board of Regents adopting a policy that undocumented immigrants attending UC colleges were entitled to the same benefits as their counterparts at Cal State and community colleges.
The plaintiff sought to have the Regents enjoined “from expending or causing the expenditure of taxpayer funds and taxpayer-financed resources to exempt unlawfully present aliens from paying nonresident supplemental tuition and to allow unlawfully present aliens to apply for and participate in state-administered financial aid programs.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White sustained a demurrer with leave to amend. She held that the regents’ policies satisfy §1621(d), explaining that under U.S. Supreme Court and California Supreme Court cases, “policies established by the Regents as matters of internal regulation may enjoy a status equivalent to that of state statutes.”
De Vries did not amend the complaint, and a judgment of dismissal was entered.
Affirmance came in an opinion by Justice John Segal of Div. Seven.
Opinion Not Controlling
At the outset, Segal agreed with De Vries that the California Supreme Court’s 2010 opinion in Martinez v. Regents of the University of California, 50 Cal.4th 1277—holding that legislation authorizing tuition benefits for undocumented immigrants meets the criterion of §1621(d)—is not controlling. There, he pointed out, the matter of the regents’ autonomy was not considered.
Segal went on to note that the 1996 legislation containing §1621(d) does not define “enactment of a State law,” and said:
“De Vries argues that these words require ‘an enactment of the state legislature,’ while the Regents argues that the phrase is broader and includes measures such as the quasi-legislative acts of the Regents. We need not decide whether the Regents’s broader view is correct because, even under De Vries’s narrower standard, A.B. 540, A.B. 131, and S.B. 1210 are ‘enactments of State law.’ ”
The jurist applied the same reasoning to the other two statutes.
The case is De Vries v. Regents of University of California, 2016 S.O.S. 6329.
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