HARRIS COUNTY, TX – Late last week, in a resounding victory for Texas students, anti-immigrant advocates dropped a lawsuit that sought to deny state college aid to undocumented youth. In Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas (IRCOT) v. Texas, IRCOT asked the court to strip immigrant students of their right to access in-state tuition and grants, despite a Texas law (HB 1403) that provided for educational access to all Texas students, regardless of immigration status.

“This lawsuit could have dealt a severe blow to fairness and equity, as well as to the future of the state of Texas,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel.  “The end of the case is a step toward securing a thriving future for the state and all of its residents.” 

Texas was the first of eleven states to pass in-state tuition laws, when Governor Perry signed HB 1403 into law in 2001. The law provided opportunity to hard-working immigrant students seeking to become productive members of society. To qualify for HB 1403, a student must: 1) graduate from a Texas high school or receive a GED after attending for three consecutive years; 2) live with a parent, legal guardian or conservator during that time; 3) register as an entering student in a higher education institution; and 4) sign an affidavit stating that he or she will apply for permanent residency at the earliest opportunity once eligible to do so. 

IRCOT first registered its challenge of the law in 2009. MALDEF intervened in the suit in April 2011 on behalf of University Leadership Initiative (ULI), a student-led organization at UT-Austin, and vigorously defended the Texas law alongside attorneys from the Texas Attorney General’s office and the Lone Star Community College System, also defendants in the case.  In response, IRCOT dropped its challenge to instate tuition, but continued its challenge to immigrant eligibility for state grants. 

After much contention about standing, and a little more than a week following a tough deposition by MALDEF of one of its key members, IRCOT late last week dropped its remaining claim seeking to strike down the law, a significant victory for immigrant students.

 “It just doesn’t make sense to deny hardworking, deserving students the chance to attend college and achieve their full potential,” stated Marisa Bono, MALDEF’s Southwest Regional Counsel and lead counsel on the case.  “We are satisfied to have defended against this mean-spirited attack on Texas students and secure the opportunity for all to achieve the “Texas Dream.” 

MALDEF staff attorney Celina Moreno also worked on the case along with Somil Trivedi, of the law firm of WilmerHale, who served as pro bono counsel with MALDEF in the case.

MALDEF: Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization.  Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.