A federal judge in Miami ruled that Florida's state-supported colleges and universities cannot require U.S.-born Florida residents whose parents are undocumented immigrants to pay tuition at the higher out-of-state rate.

The state's policy violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause, U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore found.

"The state regulations deny a benefit and create unique obstacles to attain public post-secondary public education for U.S. citizen children who would otherwise qualify for in-state tuition," he wrote.

Moore ruled on a lawsuit filed by attorneys of the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2011 in the name of five university students against the Florida Department of Education and the state university system.

The judge said that relationship between the residence of the plaintiffs, the immigration status of their parents and the interest of the state in providing quality university education is "too weak" to justify the state's regulations.

The SPLC filed the suit to overturn the regulation tripling the cost of tuition for people who cannot prove that their parents are in the country legally.

Florida has 28 public two-year colleges and 11 four-year universities.

The policy challenged by the SPLC has been applicable to students under 24 whose parents claim them as dependents. EFE