Immigration Anomalies: Legals Who Would Rather Be Illegals

By David North, November 13, 2012

While my colleagues are (appropriately) doing the heavy lifting regarding the immigration policy implications of the recent elections, we might focus on some of the immigration policy anomalies that result from the hugely complicated rules and regulations on the subject. Some of those rules are in the federal sphere, some the states' sphere, and some in both.

Today's irony relates to the local laws in a dozen states that grant in-state tuition rates to certain illegal immigrants — usually graduates of that state's high schools. (There was a referendum on this in Maryland during the election and the voters decided in favor of such a law.)

That's good news for you if you are an illegal alien in California or one of the other states and want to attend the state university at a cut-rate price.

But what if you are a legally admitted nonimmigrant alien in one of those states and want to attend the state's university? Some in that category are doomed to have to pay the full, out-of-state tuition because of a clause in immigration law.

Further, they are doomed to remain legal nonimmigrant aliens, unless they marry a U.S. citizen, after which they can become another kind of legal alien, one that pays at the lower rate.

Who are these doomed legals and why doesn't the Obama administration pay attention to them as it does to the DACA Dreamers?

A law student at the University of Hawaii's Richardson School of Law told me about this specialized situation relating to the citizens of what used to be de facto U.S. colonies in the central Pacific - the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. These countries are now regarded as associated states; they are self-governing, but remain heavily subsidized by the United States.

For the most part, persons from these islands receive automatic admittance to the United States, for their entire lives, simply by applying. They can work legally in this country. But unless something unusual happens to them — like marrying a citizen or a green card holder — they have no easy way to get a green card, or, beyond that, to obtain citizenship. They are a class of permanent, legal nonimmigrants.

So they remain legals and they cannot qualify for illegal status and must pay out-of-state tuition rates.

Some of them, the law student told me, yearn for illegal status!

And why does not the Obama administration rally to their cause, as it has to that of the DACA Dreamers? The latter group are law-breakers, which is not true of those would-be college students from the islands. Well, to put it bluntly, those students, and their friends and relatives, and the jurisdictions of their birth, are all politically insignificant.

As an illustration of that, when I worked with the entity in the U.S. Department of the Interior that dealt with the islands we occasionally would see the president of, say, the Marshall Islands. Once in a blue moon that president would actually have a quick audience with the Secretary of Interior, upstairs, but most of his dealings were with my boss, whose title was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior.

So you're a legal alien from the Marshalls and you want the federal or the state rules — or both — to be changed so that you can be treated like an illegal alien! Good luck!