MALDEF Challenges Exclusion of Military Veterans From State Education Program

June 28, 2007

SAN ANTONIO, TX – Today, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, filed suit in federal district court challenging the exclusion of certain military veterans from the Texas Hazlewood Act, which provides a tuition waiver at Texas public colleges and universities. Although the program is intended to further the education of honorably-discharged Texas veterans, the State excludes from the Hazlewood tuition exemption those veterans who were not U.S. citizens at the time they entered the service, including those veterans who subsequently became citizens during wartime and thus served as citizens in defense of the United States. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include two honorably-discharged Texas veterans who are naturalized U.S. citizens as well as the American GI Forum of Texas, a veteran’s advocacy organization.

“Many legal permanent residents serve honorably in the armed forces. These soldiers risk their lives for the freedoms we enjoy in the United States and they deserve an equal opportunity when they return home,” stated Nina Perales, Southwest Regional Counsel for MALDEF. “The State’s policy forces public universities across the state to exclude returning soldiers because of their citizenship status,” continued Perales.

“Our clients simply want to enjoy the same benefits received by native born Texas veterans,” said Carlos Becerra, MALDEF staff attorney and lead counsel in the case. “After having honorably served their country in the military, it is only fair that veterans who entered the military as legal permanent residents be afforded the same educational opportunities as those veterans who entered the military as citizens.”

The lawsuit maintains that denying veterans who entered the military as legal permanent residents violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and state and federal law.

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund