California Court of Appeals, Second District, Seventh Division
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County,
No. BC555614, Elizabeth Allen White, Judge.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
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Watch, Inc., Sterling E. Norris and Chris Fedeli for
Plaintiff and Appellant.
F. Robinson, Karen J. Petrulakis, Margaret L. Wu; Munger,
Tolles & Olson, Bradley S. Phillips and Benjamin J.
Horwich for Defendant and Respondent.
Cal.Rptr.3d 437] SEGAL, J.
law makes undocumented immigrants ineligible for state and
local public benefits, but allows a state to "
affirmatively provide for such eligibility" through
" the enactment of a State law." (8 U.S.C. §
1621(d).) The California Constitution generally gives the
Regents of the University of California plenary authority to
establish rules and policies to govern the internal affairs
of the University of California. The issue in this appeal is
whether three California legislative " enactments"
affirmatively provide " eligibility" under federal
law for postsecondary education benefits to qualified
undocumented immigrants who attend the University of
California, even though the statutes require only the
California State University and California community colleges
to provide such benefits. We conclude that, even though the
California Constitution may preclude the Legislature from
actually conferring postsecondary education benefits on
undocumented immigrants attending the University of
California, the Legislature has made these students "
eligible" for such benefits within the meaning of the
federal statute. Therefore, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Pub.L. No. 104-193
(Aug. 22, 1996) 110 Stat. 2105), which, among many other
things, made undocumented immigrants ineligible for
certain state and local [211 Cal.Rptr.3d 438] public
benefits, including benefits related to postsecondary
education. (8 U.S.C. § 1621.) The same law, however,
gives states authority to make undocumented immigrants "
eligible for any State or local public benefit for which such
[undocumented immigrant] would otherwise be ineligible under
[section 1621] only through the enactment of a State law
after August 22, 1996, which affirmatively provides for such
eligibility." ( Id., § 1621(d).)
California Legislature subsequently enacted three laws
addressing postsecondary education benefits for certain
qualified undocumented immigrants. These laws include (1)
Assembly Bill 540, which makes qualified undocumented
immigrants eligible for exemption from nonresident tuition
(Stats. 2001, ch. 814, § § 1-2, pp. 6652-6653); (2)
Assembly Bill No. 131
(2011-2012 Reg. Sess.) (Assembly Bill 131), which makes
qualified undocumented immigrants eligible for student
financial aid programs (Stats. 2011, ch. 604, § 3); and
(3) Senate Bill No. 1210 (2013-2014 Reg. Sess.) (Senate Bill
1210), which makes qualified undocumented immigrants eligible
for student loan benefits (Stats. 2014, ch. 754, § 3).
California Constitution limits the Legislature's power to
regulate the University of California (UC) and the Regents of
the University of California (the Regents), which
administers UC. (Cal. Const., art. IX, § 9, subd. (a).)
Those limits traditionally extend to matters " involving
internal university affairs," with a few exceptions. (
San Francisco Labor Council v. Regents of University of
California (1980) 26 Cal.3d 785, 789 [163 Cal.Rptr. 460');">163 Cal.Rptr. 460,
608 P.2d 277] ( Labor Council ); see People v.
Lofchie (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 240, 250 [176 Cal.Rptr.3d
579].) Because of its constitutional
autonomy, the Regents (rather than the Legislature) adopted
three policies to provide the benefits identified in Assembly
Bill 540, Assembly Bill 131, and Senate Bill 1210 to
qualified undocumented immigrant students attending UC. (The
Regents, policies 3106.1.C, 3202.2, 3202.3.)
Vries, a California taxpayer, filed this action against the
Regents, alleging that none of its policies qualifies under 8
United States Code section 1621(d) as a " State
law" making undocumented immigrants eligible for
postsecondary education benefits. De Vries further alleged
that the Legislature has not enacted any statute that "
affirmatively provid[es]" eligibility for the benefits
UC now gives to undocumented immigrants, as required by 8
United States Code section 1621(d). Indeed, De Vries alleged
that the Legislature could never confer such eligibility
because the Constitution prohibits the Legislature from
regulating UC. De Vries sought to enjoin the Regents "
from expending or causing the expenditure of taxpayer funds
and taxpayer-financed resources to exempt unlawfully present
aliens from paying nonresident supplemental tuition and to
allow unlawfully present aliens to apply for and participate
in state-administered financial aid programs."
Regents demurred. It argued that the California Supreme
Court's decision in Martinez v. Regents of University
of California (2010) 50 Cal.4th 1277');">50 Cal.4th 1277 [117 Cal.Rptr.3d
359, 241 P.3d 855] ( Martinez ), [211 Cal.Rptr.3d
439] which held the exemption in Assembly Bill 540 from
nonresident tuition complies with the
" affirmatively provides" requirement of 8 United
State Code section 1621(d), forecloses De Vries's current
challenge, and that the analysis in Martinez applies
equally to the financial aid program in Assembly Bill 131 and
the student loan program in Senate Bill 1210. Alternatively,
the Regents argued that the laws enacting Assembly Bill 540,
Assembly Bill 131, and Senate Bill 1210 nevertheless satisfy
the requirements of section 1621(d) with respect to UC
students and, even if they did not, the policies of the
Regents satisfy section 1621(d) because they have the force
and effect of " state law." In opposition to the
demurrer, De Vries argued that the Supreme Court in
Martinez did not address UC's " unique,
constitutionally independent status," nor did the
Supreme Court determine " whether the Regents'
resolution purportedly making Assembly Bill 540 applicable to
[the University] satisfies Section 1621" because the
parties in that case stipulated that Assembly Bill 540
applied to UC.
trial court sustained the demurrer with leave to amend,
concluding that the Regents' policies satisfy 8 United
States Code section 1621(d). The court cited California and
United States Supreme Court authorities stating that "
'policies established by the Regents as matters of
internal regulation may enjoy a status equivalent to that of
state statutes.'" (See, e.g., Hamilton v.
Regents (1934) 293 U.S. 245, 258 [79 L.Ed. 343');">79 L.Ed. 343, 55 S.Ct.
197]; Kim v. Regents of University of California
(2000) 80 Cal.App.4th 160, 164-165 [95 Cal.Rptr.2d 10];
Regents of University of California v. City of Santa
Monica (1978) 77 Cal.App.3d 130, 135 [143 Cal.Rptr.
276].) Thus, the trial court ruled that the Regents'
policies " adopting the exemption codified in AB540, the
eligibility for state-administered financial aid programs
codified in AB131 and eligibility for the student loan
program codified in SB1210 would qualify as a 'State law
... which affirmatively provides for such eligibility' of
State or local benefit for purposes of 8 U.S.C. §
De Vries failed to file an amended complaint, the trial court
dismissed the action with prejudice and entered judgment for
the Regents. De Vries timely appealed.
Vries makes two principal arguments. First, he argues that
the Legislature has not passed any statutes affirmatively
providing eligibility for benefits to UC students who are
undocumented immigrants. Second, he contends the trial court
erred by concluding that the Regents' policies constitute
" state laws" that comply with 8 United States Code
On review from an order sustaining a demurrer, 'we
examine the complaint de novo to determine whether it alleges
facts sufficient to state a cause
of action under any legal theory, such facts being assumed
true for this purpose.'" ( Committee for Green
Foothills v. Santa Clara County Bd. of Supervisors
(2010) 48 Cal.4th 32, 42 [105 Cal.Rptr.3d 181');">105 Cal.Rptr.3d 181, 224 P.3d 920];
accord, McCall v. PacifiCare of Cal., Inc. (2001) 25
Cal.4th 412, 415 [106 Cal.Rptr.2d 271');">106 Cal.Rptr.2d 271, 21 P.3d 1189].) We
also review de novo questions of statutory construction. (
Lee v. Hanley (2015) 61 Cal.4th 1225, 1232 [191
Cal.Rptr.3d 536, 354 P.3d 334]; Davis v. Fresno Unified
School Dist. (2015) 237 Cal.App.4th 261, 275 [187
Cal.Rptr.3d 798].) " 'We affirm if any ground
offered in support of the demurrer was well taken but find
error if the plaintiff has stated a cause of action under any
possible legal theory. [Citations.] We are not bound by the
trial court's stated reasons, if any, supporting its
ruling; we review the ruling, not its [211 Cal.Rptr.3d 440]
rationale.'" ( Walgreen Co. v. City and County
of San Francisco (2010) 185 Cal.App.4th 424, 433 [110
Cal.Rptr.3d 498]; accord, Acuna v. San Diego Gas &
Electric Co. (2013) 217 Cal.App.4th 1402, 1411 [159
Statutory and Constitutional Framework
Title 8 United States Code Section 1621
enacted 8 United States Code section 1621 as part of the
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation
Act of 1996. (Pub.L. No. 104-193 (Aug. 22, 1996) 110 Stat.
2105.) The act has over 900 sections, including section 1621,
which appears in a chapter entitled " Restricting
Welfare and Public Benefits for Aliens."
United States Code section 1621(a) provides: "
Notwithstanding any other provision of law and except as
provided in subsections (b) and (d), an alien who is
not--[¶ ] (1) a qualified alien (as defined in section
1641 of this title), [¶ ] (2) a nonimmigrant under the
Immigration and Nationality Act [8 U.S.C. section 1101 et
seq.], or [¶ ] (3) an alien who is paroled into the
United States under section 212(d)(5) of such Act [8 U.S.C.
1182(d)(5)] for less than one year, [¶ ] is not eligible
for any State or local public benefit (as defined in
subsection (c))." This case concerns undocumented
immigrants who do not fall within any of the exempt
categories of " aliens" listed in section 1621(a).
United States Code section 1621(c) defines " 'State
or local public benefit'" to include, among other
things, " any ... postsecondary education ... benefit
for which payments or assistance are provided to an
individual, household, or family eligibility unit by an
agency of a State or local government or by appropriated
funds of a State or local government." The parties do
not dispute that the resident tuition exemption in Assembly
Bill 540, the financial aid programs in Assembly Bill 131,
and the student loan programs in Senate Bill 1210 are "
State or local public benefits" within the meaning of
United States Code section 1621(d) states: " A State may
provide that an alien who is not lawfully present in the
United States is eligible for any State or local public
benefit for which such alien would otherwise be ineligible
under subsection (a) only through the enactment of a
State law after August 22, 1996, which affirmatively
provides for such eligibility." (Italics added.) As
noted, De Vries contends that neither Assembly Bill 540, nor
Assembly Bill 131, nor Senate Bill 1210 " affirmatively
provides for such eligibility" for UC students, and that
policies the Regents adopted to implement Assembly Bill 540,
Assembly Bill 131, and Senate Bill 1210 are not "
enactments of State law" within the meaning of section
The University's Status Under the California
a public trust established pursuant to article IX, section 9,
subdivision (a), of the California Constitution [211
Cal.Rptr.3d 441] as follows: " (a) The University of
California shall constitute a public trust, to be
administered by the existing corporation known as 'The
Regents of the University of California,' with full
powers of organization and government, subject only to such
legislative control as may be necessary to insure the
security of its funds and compliance with the terms of the
endowments of the university and such competitive bidding
procedures as may be made applicable to the university by
statute for the letting of construction contracts, sales of
real property, and purchasing of materials, goods, and
services." Article IX, section 9, subdivision (f),
further provides, in part: " The university shall be
entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence
and kept free therefrom in the appointment of its regents and
in the administration of its affairs ... ."
The California Supreme Court has recognized that
'[a]rticle IX, section 9, grants the regents broad powers
to organize and govern the university and
limits the Legislature's power to regulate either the
university or the regents.' [Citation.] This
constitutional grant of power to the Regents includes both
quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative powers, according [the
Regents] 'virtual autonomy in self-governance.'
[Citation.] '" The Regents have the general
rule-making or policy-making power in regard to the
University ... and are ... fully empowered with respect to
the organization and government of the University."
'" ( People v. Lofchie, supra, 229
Cal.App.4th at pp. 248-249, fn. omitted, quoting Regents
of University of California v. Superior Court (1970) 3
Cal.3d 529, 540 [91 Cal.Rptr. 57');">91 Cal.Rptr. 57, 476 P.2d 457], and
Regents of University of California v. City of Santa
Monica, supra, 77 Cal.App.3d 130, 135.)
result, " [t]he Regents may ... exercise
quasi-legislative powers, subject to legislative regulation.
Indeed, 'policies established by the Regents as matters
of internal regulation may enjoy a status equivalent to that
of state statutes.'" ( Campbell v. Regents of
University of California (2005) 35 Cal.4th 311, 320 [25
Cal.Rptr.3d 320, 106 P.3d 976], quoting Regents of
University of California v. City of Santa Monica, supra,
77 Cal.App.3d at p. 135; see, e.g., Hamilton v. Regents,
supra, 293 U.S. 245, 258 [a Regents order making
military instruction compulsory " is a statute of the
[s]tate within the meaning of [a statute establishing federal
jurisdiction]" ]; Campbell v. Regents of University
of California, at p. 321 [a Regents policy for handling
whistleblower claims under its power to govern and organize
the university is treated as a statute in order to determine
whether the ...