Martinez v. Regents of the University of California

LatinoJustice PRLDEF, joined by the global law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, filed an amicus brief with the California Supreme Court urging the court to dismiss a legal challenge to California AB540 which allows qualified students, including undocumented students, to pay in-state tuition rates at California’s public colleges and universities.

The case will be argued Tuesday, October 5, 2010, at 9:00 a.m., at the California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District.

LatinoJustice’s amicus brief which was filed in October, 2009 was signed by over 20 leading educational advocacy organizations, immigrant rights groups, and individual Professors and Academics.

Amici joining the brief include: NYS Youth Leadership Council; NYS Association for Bilingual Education; NY Latino Research & Resources Network; New York Immigration Council; Long Island Immigrant Alliance; Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights; Hispanic Resource Center of Mamaroneck; Hispanic Federation; Committee for Hispanic Children & Families; Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities; Hispanic College Fund; Hispanic National Bar Association; Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund; Professional Staff Congress; California Faculty Association.

All of these organizations believe that providing all students-- irrespective of their immigration status-- the opportunity to go to college is a positive step towards promoting education throughout the U. S. while at the same time taking a step towards eliminating a perpetual underclass in our country.

The California Supreme Court in Martinez v. Regents of the University of California, S167791 will review a California Court of Appeals decision that overturned the lower court’s decision dismissing the lawsuit.

Under California law AB-540, students who have attended at least three years of high school in California, graduated from a California high school, and meet certain other requirements are allowed to pay in-state tuition rates.

Students who fall within the parameters of AB-540 include undocumented immigrant high school graduates living in California, as well as U.S. citizens and permanent residents who attended high school in California but do not have state residence. The plaintiffs/appellants in the case are U.S. citizen/non- residents of California who are being represented by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (“IRLI”) - the legal arm of the notoriously anti-immigrant group known as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (“FAIR”) who erroneously contend that AB-540 violates federal law.

LatinoJustice’s amicus brief which was written by Simpson Thacher lawyers Alexis S. Coll-Very, George R. Morris and Deanne K. Cevasco contends that the plaintiffs’ attack on California AB540 is not only unwarranted and unsupported by precedent, but also threatens to erect an insurmountable barrier for high achieving high school graduates from pursuing higher education in hopes of bettering themselves and benefiting their communities as a whole.

This potential barrier not only threatens California’s high school graduates but could also extend to other areas of the country where nine other states including Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York (which passed its law in 2002 after a LatinoJustice PRLDEF lawsuit challenging CUNY's administrative change in policy denying in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrant students). Texas, Utah, Washington and most recently Wisconsin have legitimately and lawfully enacted similar statutes, as well as those states now considering passing similar legislation.

The Martinez case adds urgency to efforts to pass the federal DREAM Act and thereby address the status of undocumented immigrant students who have grown up in this country. The DREAM Act would provide immigration relief to those who entered the U.S. more than five years ago if and when they graduate from high school, and allow them to become permanent residents and eventually citizens if they go to college or serve in the military.

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