Association has standing to challenge use of funds for illegal aliens says 14th District Court of Appeals.

Lone Star College System and Richard Carpenter v. Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas (IRCOT), 14-12-00819-CV (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.], November 26, 2013).

This is a preemption case with jurisdictional underpinnings which appeared before the court interlocutory after the denial of a plea to the jurisdiction. Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas (IRCOT), brought this state taxpayer lawsuit alleging state funds were being expended pursuant to state laws that are preempted by federal law. Specifically, IRCOT alleges the College provides education grants to illegal aliens using Texas state funds in violation of federal statutes.  All governmental entities who deal with the political issues of regulations involving illegal aliens should probably read the case.

IRCOT alleged 8 U.S.C. §§1601(6), 1621, 1623, 1625 preclude the expenditure of state funds on illegal aliens, especially for secondary education purposes. Lone Star filed a plea asserting it has governmental immunity, IRCOT lacks standing, and the asserted claims were not ripe. The trial court held IRCOT lacked standing based on the payment of sales, motor vehicle, and fuel taxes, however, it could have standing by establishing it paid taxes that were allegedly illegally expended on the specific activity. Lone Star appealed.

The court first analyzed Lone Star’s governmental/sovereign immunity assertions.  However immunity is waived under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act for a challenge to an ordinance or statute.  To the extent IRCOT asserts the Texas Education Code provisions authorizing the expenditures are preempted, immunity is waived. Since Lone Star serves as an agent and administrator for the state grants, it is a proper party, even though it is a local entity and the challenge is to a state statute. [Comment: the court did admit it was unusual to file a state taxpayer suit against a local entity, but it was the interconnectedness of the grants which provided authority].  IRCOT further alleges that someone at Lone Star is acting without authority by providing the funds and therefore suing the chancellor of the college is proper since he has the authority to ensure the college complies prospectively with applicable federal laws. Thus, even though the chancellor may not be the employee who actually distributes grant funds to illegal aliens, he is the one to sue for prospective insurance of compliance. The court then analyzed IRCOT’s standing and asserted the pleadings were sufficient to plead standing and the record was not developed enough to eliminate the pleading assertion. Further, the allegations, when read liberally, note the claims are ripe.

If you would like to read this opinion click here.