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Appeal Begins on Kansas Immigrant In-State Tuition Law

By Sylvia Maria Gross

Kansas City, MO – A US appeals court in Denver hears arguments today on whether a group of students can sue the state of Kansas for offering in-state tuition discounts to illegal immigrants. A federal judge in Topeka dismissed the case last year because he said the students weren't harmed by the law. KCUR's Sylvia Maria Gross has more.

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The 2004 law allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates if they've lived in the state of Kansas for at least three years and are applying for legal status. Some 20 out-of state students filed the suit, funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an organization that lobbies to restrict immigration. California attorney Peter Roos is defending the law on behalf of immigrants rights groups. He said the out-of-state would not benefit, even if the law disappeared.

PETER ROOS: They have no ties to the state of Kansas; they all live elsewhere, they never went to school in Kansas. Their only interest is benefiting from the lower tuition accorded to in-state residents which they're not.

UMKC law professor Kris Kobach represents the out-of-state students.

KRIS KOBACH: The injury doesn't have to be financial. The injury can be an injury to your legal rights, it can be an injury to your equal treatment.

If the out-of-state students prevail, the case will be sent back to district court to determine whether the Kansas statute actually violates federal law. Nine other states offer in-state rates to undocumented students, but this is the first federal challenge.

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