Texas university's bid to keep treating migrants as in-state residents fails

Students wearing face masks keep social distance as they study at the large reading room of Vienna University Library amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Vienna
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  • Lower court said charging U.S. citizens more tuition than migrants unlawful
  • Divided appeals court refused to stay ruling pending appeal

July 15 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court has rejected the University of North Texas' bid to continue charging out-of-state residents higher tuition than immigrants in the country illegally while it appeals a judge's rulings that said the policy was unlawful.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision on Thursday declined to stay the April ruling by a federal judge in Sherman, Texas, who agreed with a conservative group that charging U.S. citizens more than migrants living in the U.S. unlawfully was unconstitutional.

The 5th Circuit did not explain its decision. Circuit Judge James Graves, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, said he would have granted the stay, breaking with Circuit Judges Edith Jones and Jerry Smith, who were appointed by former President Ronald Reagan.

Robert Henneke, a lawyer for the Young Conservatives of Texas Foundation, said the decision was not surprising because UNT "did not give a compelling reason for the stay other than that it did not want to comply."

UNT has said the ruling will cost it millions of dollars in revenue because it will be forced to charge lower tuition to out-of-state residents. Jim Berscheidt, the university's vice president, said in an email that UNT was disappointed with the decision but would continue to comply with the district court's order.

U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan, an appointee of former Republican President Donald Trump, said in the April ruling that federal immigration law preempted a Texas law that allows state universities to treat migrants who live in Texas as in-state residents.

Jordan issued an injunction barring the school from simultaneously charging immigrants living illegally in the United States in-state tuition while denying that benefit to U.S. citizens.

The school's website says that the average annual cost of attendance for a Texas resident living on campus and enrolled full time is $26,554 compared to $38,794 for an out-of-state student.

The case is Young Conservatives of Texas Foundation v. Smatresk, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-40225

For Young Conservatives of Texas Foundation: Robert Henneke of Texas Public Policy Foundation

For University of North Texas: Sandy Hellums-Gomez of Husch Blackwell

Read more:

Texas university can't charge out-of-state residents more than migrants - judge

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.