Commentary: Court doesn't punish children of immigrants

Petition DENIED.

That's all the U.S. Supreme Court had to say on the Martinez v. Regents of the University of California in-state tuition case.

Now the state and the nation can move on.

At issue was California's Assembly Bill 540 of 2001, authored by Democrat Marco Firebaugh and Republican Abel Maldonado. It passed overwhelmingly in the Assembly, 57-15, and Senate, 27-7.

Under AB 540, any individual – regardless of immigration status – who graduates from a California high school after attending for three years qualifies for the same tuition discount offered to California residents. Eight other states have similar laws – Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, New York, Texas, Utah and Washington.

U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad – who used to be a lobbyist for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nativist organization that wants to limit even legal immigration – sued to overturn AB 540. He made this an issue leading up to the 2006 special election to Congress to replace Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who had resigned after pleading guilty to bribery.

Bilbray noted that his children, who graduated from high schools in Virginia, had to pay out-of-state tuition.

The odd thing is that if AB 540 didn't exist or were overturned, Bilbray's children would still have had to pay out-of-state tuition until they established residency in California.

As it turns out, most students who benefit from AB 540 are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants – for example, students residing in California boarding schools or who stay in California after their families leave.

The California Supreme Court had issued a 7-0 decision in favor of the law, making it clear that AB 540 is based on attendance and graduation from a California high school, not residence. With the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to take up the case, that California decision stands.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.