The Supreme Court today refused to hear a challenge to a California law that extends in-state tuition at public universities to undocumented immigrants who graduated from California high schools.

The decision upheld a previous ruling by the California Supreme Court, which had unanimously rejected a challenge to the law from a group of out-of-state students who were also U.S. citizens. Those students argued unsuccessfully that a 2001 law allowing some undocumented students to receive in-state tuition violated an earlier law stipulating that higher education benefits available to undocumented immigrants had to also be extended to U.S. citizens.

The Supreme Court's decision to leave the 2001 law intact represents the latest development in a contentious and often emotional debate about the rights of minors who emigrated to the United States illegally, many of them with their parents. A piece of legislation known as the DREAM act, which would have established a path to citizenship for immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally but attended college or served in the military, failed to pass the Senate this December.