- United States
A United States Appellate panel ruled in favor of an American born student, whose request for a tuition grant in New Jersey was rejected because of her mother’s immigration status, this Wednesday August 8th, 2012. The ruling, given by a three appellate judge panel, clarified that the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), a state agency, had been misinterpreting the regulations on purpose since 2005. The state Attorney General’s office said that it intends on reviewing the ruling before considering the option to send it to the state Supreme Court for more elaborative scrutiny of the issue.
The ruling came in a 19 page decision which was written by Judge Mitchell Ostrer on behalf of the whole panel, including Judge Francine Axelrad and Judge Paulette Sapp-Peterson. The ruling stated that the HESAA started to exercise the wrong implementation of the regulations first in 2005, by incorrectly associating the students’ residency with the immigration status of their parents. The ruling further said that such misinterpretation has resulted in depriving thousands of students of the tuition grant they required, compelling some of them to sacrifice their academic careers.
“In 2005,” part of the ruling stated, “the agency reversed course without any substantive explanation – instead, inaccurately representing that this significant change was merely a clarification.”
The case was brought forward, as a challenge against HESAA’s rejection of the U.S born student’s application, by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The student, codenamed A.Z was denied such aid last year. A.Z’s mother is an illegal immigrant from Guatemala. A.Z was born in 1994 in New York City. Later in 1997, the family moved to New Jersey.
She had applied for the financial assistance after graduating from high school, as student in New Jersey are provided financial assistance if they qualify to a certain criteria and have lived in the city for more than 12 months before receiving the aid. In A.Z’s case, she had completed all the necessary documentation and met all the requirements to get the assistance. But, HESAA administration said that her mother, and not A.Z, will be the actual recipient of the aid as the program is based on the income of the parents and the federal law prohibits giving financial benefits to illegal immigrants. The state agency also said that A.Z was also not a resident of New Jersey on account of her mother’s illegal status.
On these grounds, the agency denied her request. The Court ruled that A.Z’s mother’s immigration status in no manner affects her residence in New Jersey. As she has lived in the City well beyond the 12 months requirement she is entitled to the aid. Furthermore, the judges said that even though the financial aid is based on income of the parents, it belongs to the child and must be treated as such.
Chairwomen of the Senate Higher Education Commission, Sandra Cunningham, said the ruling clarifies that equality principle must be observed in providing access to education facilities.
“The Authority now has the responsibility to move quickly to resolve this matter,” Cunningham said, “so that no other student is subjected to the discriminatory policy the state has applied to the first-generation Americans seeking higher education assistance.”
To avoid any such issues in the future, the U.S immigration department must issue appropriate guidelines for state authorities to follow while making the judgments with respect to the relevance of the immigration status of people in certain issues. In this way the uncertainty will be removed for both the authorities and the student, and the authorities can easily distinguish among the rights of immigrant students, illegal immigrant students and U.S born students.
Other Related News: