Skip to main content

Joint Press Statement: AB540 IS STILL THE LAW!

By September 20, 2008No Comments

For immediate release                       

September 18, 2008




Becky Bae, NAKASEC, 323.937.3703                                                                                             

Josh Bernstein, NILC, 202-216-0261

Robert Rubin, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, 415-543-9444


AB540 Is Still The Law!

Education Access for Immigrant Students Remains In Effect

While Challenge Is On Appeal


(Los Angeles, CA) The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) is deeply concerned about the recent legal challenge to AB540 by anti-immigrant groups. On September 15, 2008, the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento reversed a trial court’s decision dismissing a challenge to AB 540, California’s in-state tuition law [Martinez v. Regents of the University of California, No. C054124 (CA3 Sept. 15, 2008)].  This intermediate court’s ruling, if allowed to stand, would return the case to the Superior Court for trial.  However, the court did not invalidate AB 540; the law remains in effect. 


AB540 has been California law since 2001 and afforded thousands of low-income immigrant students a viable path to achieve higher education.  Under this law, students who have attended three years of high school in California, graduated and gained admission to one of the state’s colleges or universities are exempt from paying non-resident tuition. The difference between in-state and out-of-state is staggering; for example in the University of California, Los Angeles, the tuition and minimum living costs for a resident undergraduate per academic year is $17,669, whereas $38,277 for a non-resident undergraduate. 


“According to the 2006 annual report from the University of California, in 2005 alone 716 UC students with legal status who otherwise would have paid non-resident tuition received in-state tuition under this law.  AB540 is not an ‘illegal alien tuition scheme,’ but is intended to improve access to public higher education for all students, regardless of their immigration status.  Education is the cornerstone in our country, key to our nation’s prosperity and one of our greatest responsibilities to the young generation.  Abolition or any changes of current law will not only adversely impact low-income Asian American Pacific Islander communities but also our nation’s prosperity,” stated Eun Sook Lee, Executive Director, NAKASEC.


“The appellate court’s is only one step in the process of resolving the legality of AB 540.  The final decision will likely be appealed and any final decision is likely to come from the California Supreme Court.  It would be extremely unfortunate if this intermediate court decision were upheld.  The affected students are talented high achievers, who grew up in California and persevered against the odds to graduate from high school and meet the qualifications for higher education.  California can ill afford to deny these students the opportunity to complete their education,” stated Josh Bernstein, Director of Federal Policy, National Immigration Law Center.


“KRC has provided student advocacy and legal help for more than 200 low-income immigrant students to receive in-state tuition through AB540.  Most wouldn’t have been in universities or colleges without AB540 because of their limited finance and ineligibility to receive federal and state government aid.  The court decision is a giant setback for education and trampling on thousands of students’ dreams and their aspirations to achieve higher education,” stated Dae J. Yoon, Executive Director, KRC.


“We have experienced problems with many schools improperly rejecting many eligible AB540 students.  Many of these students do have a path to legal residency and will become productive members of society.  It is critical that we educate administrators about AB540 and advocate for proper implementation of the law so that students and families are not put through an unnecessary trial of hardship and stress,” stated Joann Lee, Managing Attorney, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA).


“AB540 is not only a lawful act of the state legislature but it is sound public policy.  The affected students are our best and brightest, having overcome great obstacles to be college-ready.  We should not be creating barriers to their efforts to become fully contributing members of our society,” said Robert Rubin, Legal Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) in San Francisco.  Rubin was instrumental in the drafting of AB540.


NAKASEC and KRC are working with NILC, LCCR, LAFLA and others to monitor the progress of the case, educate our communities, and advocate for qualified students’ rights to receive in-state tuition.


For more information, contact Becky Bae at or 323-937-3703, ext 209.  For further legal information, please contact Josh Bernstein, NILC at 202-216-0261 or Robert Rubin, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights at 415-543-9444.



# # #