Thursday, July 22, 2004 attorney general separating himself from lawsuit over illegal immigrant tuition 07/22/04 attorney general separating himself from lawsuit over illegal immigrant tuition 07/22/04
Story last updated at 10:53 a.m. Thursday, July 22, 2004

State attorney general separating himself from lawsuit over illegal immigrant tuition
By John Milburn
Associated Press Writer
TOPEKA -- Attorney General Phill Kline has distanced himself from the defense of a new law granting in-state tuition to some illegal immigrants, saying he opposes the law.

Kline said Wednesday that his office's civil litigation division will handle the state's defense in a federal lawsuit. He said its attorneys will report to Dave Davies, deputy attorney general for civil litigation, instead of Kline.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Topeka by Kris Kobach on behalf of the Federation for American Immigration Reform and 24 university students. The lawsuit alleges the tuition policy violates federal law, the U.S. Constitution and rewards illegal immigrants for being in the United States illegally.

Kobach, a conservative Republican running for the 3rd Congressional District seat, did not name Kline as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Kline, himself a conservative Republican, said he agrees with the plaintiffs and that Kansas law -- though worded carefully -- may not withstand federal court review. He said immigration policy is best left to Congress to decide.

"Although reducing education barriers is a laudable goal, the state would be better served by working in partnership with the federal government rather than contrary to its expressed aims," Kline said.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed the law on May 20 and it took effect July 1. It extends in-state tuition, which is lower than tuition for nonresidents, to illegal immigrants who attended a Kansas high school for at least three years and graduated, or earned a general educational development certificate in Kansas.

To receive the cheaper tuition, immigrants would have to actively seek legal immigration status or plan to do so when they were eligible. Immigrants must file an affidavit to that effect with the institution they attend.

Kline said he is concerned efforts such granting in-state tuition will diminish the value of legal immigration. He also said a state-by-state approach to immigration issues is ill-advised.

Nicole Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Sebelius, said the governor's office was aware of Kline's decision to recuse himself from the case and defended the tuition policy as benefiting Kansas and students.

The lawsuit also names Kansas Board of Regents President Reggie Robinson, Kansas State University President Jon Wefald, University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Emporia State University President Kay Schallenkamp as defendants.


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