Texas lawmaker challenges in-state tuition law
By SUSAN CARROLLHouston ChronicleOctober 31, 2008
A state lawmaker has requested an attorney general's opinion on the constitutionality of a Texas law that allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates in light of a recent California court ruling.
State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, formally requested the opinion from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Sept. 18 -- three days after a California appellate court allowed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California's in-state tuition law to move forward.
"We are not giving in-state tuition to everybody in Texas ... so we're in direct violation of U.S. law," Berman said. "We have a lot of students from around the world going to school here in Texas on student visas who are here legally. They either pay out of-state tuition or international tuition, while if you're here illegally, you pay in-state tuition. We're rewarding people who are violating our laws, and we're penalizing people who are here legally."
Legal experts said the Texas opinion request is premature. Supporters of the state law, passed in 2001, said Berman is playing politics with a case that may never affect Texas.
The California lawsuit was filed in 2005 by a group of out-of-state parents and students who alleged they were being charged higher tuition and fees than illegal immigrants. A lower court dismissed the lawsuit,but an appeals court in Sacramento ruled Sept. 15 that the case could move forward. The state's Supreme Court will now decide whether to hearthe case.
Michael Olivas, a University of Houston law professor who specializes in higher education and immigration law, filed a letter on Thursday with Abbott's office in response to Berman's request. The letter, signed by Olivas and six immigration lawyers and law professors, said the case is still being litigated in California and any opinion would be premature.
The letter also argued that the Texas statute is constitutional under state and federal law.
"I think Representative Berman is simply making mischief," Olivas said. "Texas would never be bound by anything a state court in California did. They're different statutes. They're different states. They have different residency statutes. And in our system, one state is not bound by what another state does in the state court system..." more