The University of California (UC) has put the kibosh on plans to set up National Dream University, a low-cost, low-admissions-standards college where illegal immigrants were to be trained in activism on behalf of…illegal immigrants. National Dream U. was supposed to be a collaboration between UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education and the union-subsidized National Labor College in Maryland. A combination of embarrassing publicity and scrutiny by Republican state assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a member of the state appropriations committee that approves funding for the UC system, preceded UC President Mark Yudof’s announcement on Sept. 13 that National Dream U. would be shutting its doors even before they opened.
Yudof’s statement declared that the agreement between its labor research center and the National Labor College "was negotiated without the necessary approvals from UCLA’s academic and administrative leadership." Yudof did not rule out future attempts by the center to collaborate with the National Labor College, but its statement did say that "any agreements would require a comprehensive academic and financial plan that has approval from appropriate parties.
National Dream U. had plans to offer an 18-credit-hour certificate program, mostly online, in immigrant rights and advocacy, with most of the courses to be taught by UCLA professors. Tuition would total nearly $5,000 less than the $7,218 that California residents pay for 18 credit hours, and the 2.5 grade-point-average for admissions would be well below the 3.7-plus average that 70 percent of entering freshman at the highly competitive UCLA possess. Furthermore, National Dream U., unlike UCLA, had an ideological litmus test for admission: "a commitment to immigrant/labor rights and social justice."
The Huffington Post reported (incorrectly, it turned out) that credits earned at National Dream U. could be automatically transferred to UCLA proper—although UCLA would still have been free to accept the credits if it wished. Then Donnelly leapt into the controversy, pointing out that "this is not the way to expend the precious limited resources, which should be available to California citizens rather than illegal aliens, no matter how deserving they may seem," as he told Fox News. Still, National Dream U. may not be dead yet. According to Fox News, Kent Wong, director of UCLA’s labor research center, recently told an audience of young activists, "[Y]ou will go onto become lawyers and teachers and doctors and members of the U.S. Senate to replace those old white men."
Possibly because it is saving its fire for review of the Arizona immigration law, the Supreme Court has passed up a chance to rule on the legality of lower in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants, a policy now in 11 states. Federal law prohibits granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants at publically financed state institutions, unless the same benefit is available to United States citizens. The law (Title 8 Section 1623 of the United States Code) reads as follows: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.”
That seems clear enough. It is also clear that federal law pre-empts state law, a fact of which the California Legislature was well aware when it set about to circumvent federal law and advance its own immigration policy at taxpayer expense. The trick the legislators used was to avoid the residency criterion for exemption from non-resident tuition, and to require instead graduation from a California high school after three years attendance. Never mind that for illegal aliens to attend and graduate from a California high school they have to reside illegally in California for that period. On the basis of simple logic, therefore, the California law is clearly out of compliance with federal law.
A group of out-of-state students sued, charging that the California statute violated federal law, and that it discriminates against United States citizens. The lower court ruled against the plaintiffs but an appeals court, in a carefully reasoned review of all the points made by the plaintiffs, found in their favour. The case went forward to the California Supreme Court which, in their own words, declared that the California law “is not impliedly pre-empted by federal law, and does not violate the privileges and immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.” The reason they gave for this finding was the Legislature’s substitution of the requirement of graduation from a California high school after three years residence in California attending that school, and not on the criterion of residency. The attorneys for the plaintiff described this ploy as the creation “of an exception that swallowed the rule.” This ruling also reveals the kind of contortions that have given lawyers their traditionally bad name, illustrating once again how ideological consideration or sentiment can reshape a law in spite of the clear meaning of its text and its statutory intent.
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