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The American Civil Liberties Union is suing three public colleges in Missouri for denying in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, claiming that the law the schools are following is invalid.
The Missouri chapter of the ACLU announced in a press release Tuesday that it has filed lawsuits against the University of Missouri, St. Louis Community College, and the Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City on behalf of three students who recently experienced tuition increases that the organization considers illegal.
All three students are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants immunity from deportation to individuals who arrived in the country illegally before the age of 16, but does not confer actual citizenship.
The tuition hikes came after the state passed a bill this summer, HB 3, stating that “no funds shall be expended at public institutions of higher education that offer a tuition rate to any student with an unlawful immigration status in the United States that is less than the tuition rate charged to international students.”
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Missouri law already prohibited public colleges and universities from providing institutional financial aid to students who are “unlawfully present in the United States,” but The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that some lawmakers had become concerned that the language would not apply to DACA students, prompting them to propose the new wording in an effort to clarify the law’s meaning.
Despite the misgivings of some administrators, the state’s colleges dutifully complied, sending letters to affected students in July informing them of the mandated tuition increases even as some schools sought to offset the hikes with other forms of financial aid funded by private donations, which the law allows.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, however, offered a conflicting interpretation of the bill upon signing it into law, arguing that the language in question is not legally binding because it occurs in the preamble of the bill, rather than in the body.
“The Governor has been quite clear—in order to change the law, you have to pass legislation,” press secretary Scott Holste told St. Louis Public Radio. “The language in the enacting clause of House Bill 3—or in the enacting clause of any other bill—is not legally binding nor is it enforceable.” Via: Campus Reform