Editorials

Give up tuition fight

One reason crusading attorney Kris Kobach keeps failing to overturn laws allowing qualifying children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates is that he can’t find anyone harmed by the policies — which makes you wonder why Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of stateelect, is so obsessed with the laws.

Kobach’s latest defeat was last week in California. A unanimous state Supreme Court ruled that California’s in-state tuition law was constitutional because U.S. residents also had access to the instate rates.

Kobach’s attempt to invalidate Kansas’ tuition law ended similarly. A U.S. District Court dismissed the case in 2005 because the plaintiffs — some out-of-state students and their parents — didn’t have standing to bring the suit, as they weren’t injured by the policy. Whether or not a few undocumented students paid in-state tuition had no bearing on the tuition rates that outof-state students pay.

Kobach told the San Francisco Chronicle that he would appeal the California ruling, which he called “very weak,” to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the high court declined to hear his earlier appeal of the Kansas ruling.

Though the tuition laws often are portrayed by critics as some sort of handout, that’s not the case. The undocumented students pay the same tuition rate as other graduates of Kansas high schools. The only costs to taxpayers so far have been the legal fees from defending the policy against Kobach’s lawsuits.

There are strict requirements to qualify for in-state tuition. An undocumented student must have attended a Kansas high school for three or more years, have graduated from a Kansas high school or obtained a high school equivalency in Kansas, and have filed an affidavit stating the student or parent has applied to legalize the student’s immigration status or will do so when eligible.

The reason the Kansas Legislature passed the law in 2004 — and why lawmakers haven’t revoked it since then, despite several tries — is that it is both compassionate and benefits Kansas.

These students were brought to Kansas by their parents. Many of them have spent most of their lives here and consider Kansas their home. Many will continue to live in Kansas. It’s in the economic interest of the state that they get a good education and become productive citizens.

Given that critics can’t find anybody harmed by the policy, about the only straw they can grasp is that the law creates an incentive for illegal immigration. But that’s silly. What illegal immigrant would bring his family to Kansas and live here for at least three years just so his kids could pay nearly $8,000 a year to attend the University of Kansas? In fact, there are only a couple hundred undocumented students attending Kansas public colleges; that’s because few can afford the tuition, even at the in-state rate.

Gary Sherrer, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, blasted efforts to overturn the law. “I personally find it repugnant that these young men and women who have proven themselves are being batted around for purely political motives,” he told the Lawrence Journal-World.

Legislatures approved the tuition policies. The court has upheld them. No one is harmed. And the policies are good for states such as Kansas. Yet Kobach keeps crusading. Give it up.

  Comments