For several years now, a handful of states have tried to control illegal immigration by enacting laws that explicitly ban young undocumented immigrants from receiving reduced in-state tuition to public colleges and universities. That was bad enough. Now, education officials in some of those states are stooping even lower and attempting to use the same strategy to discriminate against U.S.-born students whose parents are in this country illegally.
Thankfully, state and federal courts have intervened and put an end to those misguided policies. Earlier this year, a New Jersey judge tossed out a rule in that state that denied American-born students financial aid if their parents were not legal residents. And a federal judge in Miami has thrown out a Florida regulation that required students under the age of 25 and born to parents in the country illegally to pay higher, out-of-state tuition. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore noted that the regulation created a "second-tier of citizenship."
It should not take a federal judge to remind Florida lawmakers or education officials that children born in the United States, under whatever circumstances, are fully American. Nor is it clear what those public officials hoped to gain by punishing American students such as Noel Saucedo for the sins of their parents. Born in Miami, Saucedo attended high school there and had hoped to enroll at Miami Dade College after being offered a full two-year scholarship to the school. His scholarship was greatly reduced, however, when his parents couldn't provide proof of their legal status in this country. School officials then raised his tuition to four times what a resident of the state would pay. Saucedo dropped out. And who gained from that episode?
Fortunately, Florida's Board of Education has reconsidered its foolish and unconstitutional policy and agreed not to appeal Moore's decision. Whether that reflects reconsideration or just recognition of legal realities, at least it snuffs out a policy that did much harm and no good. Making it harder for promising students to attend college doesn't discourage illegal immigration, but it does deprive states of educated workers who can compete in a global economy.