This year, nearly 7,500 qualified California residents – who would otherwise be entering California state universities as incoming freshmen – are likely to be turned away for lack of funds. Meanwhile, approximately 7,500 illegal immigrants will receive heavily subsidized university educations at a cost of between $45 million and $65 million annually at those same universities.

Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture?

Under a law signed in 2001 by Gov. Gray Davis, an illegal alien who has graduated from a California high school after three years of attendance – all while in violation of U.S. immigration laws – is entitled to attend a community college or state university at the in-state tuition rate previously reserved for legal California residents.

The subsidy is substantial. At the University of California, proposed student fees for a California resident will be $6,028 next year. Non-residents will pay the full cost of $22,504. The difference is paid by California taxpayers.

Under this bizarre law, American citizens from other states pay more than three times as much as illegal aliens to attend California schools. An American citizen who moves to California from Arizona will pay $12,946 to attend the California State University. While she is waiting tables to pay her tuition costs, her taxes will be used to subsidize illegal immigrants who are paying only $2,776 to attend the same school.

Perhaps even more galling is the inequity this creates for legal immigrants. Consider two students from Mexico. One has obeyed every immigration law to come to California legally. He applied for the appropriate visas, paid all the fees, ran the gauntlet of applications and met every requirement for a student visa. The other has broken every immigration law to attend a California high school for the last three years and is in the United States illegally.

The immigrant who respected and obeyed our nation’s laws will be charged $22,504 per year to attend the University of California, while the illegal immigrant who disrespected and disobeyed the law will pay only $6,028. What rationale is offered to defend this stark and obvious injustice?

One argument is that many of these students were brought illegally to California by their parents and had no choice in the matter. That may be true, but they are no longer children. They are now of legal age. And as responsible adults, they have an obligation to obey the laws of this nation and that begins with gaining legal entry into the United States – as millions of legal immigrants have done.

Another argument is that many of these students are disadvantaged and the subsidy is the only way they can afford a university education to obtain skilled jobs. But under federal law it is illegal to employ them in those jobs.

Finally, it is said that many of these students have been in the United States for many years, and the law requires that they promise to apply for legal residency in the future. But why is it that the longer a person has broken a law the more excusable it becomes? A student who is serious about becoming an American citizen and assimilating into American society would first obtain legal admission to the United States and then seek the benefits of citizenship – not the other way around.

Here is the great imponderable: Why do legislators of both parties continue to defend this law at a time when thousands of California citizens are about to be turned away from their own university system? Last month, I authored Senate Bill 1503 to repeal the in-state tuition subsidy for illegal immigrants. When heard by the Senate Education Committee, it received only one vote – Sen. Pete Knight of Antelope Valley. Every other senator – Republican and Democrat – voted to maintain the subsidy for illegal aliens at the expense of California students.

Everett Dirksen once said, “When they feel the heat, they see the light.” If Californians want rationality restored to university tuitions and admissions, it’s time to turn up the heat.



Tom McClintock represents the 19th district in the California Senate.

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