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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


AZ DACA students face challenges from the Attorney General

Zi Yang Lai

Mechanical engineering junior Dario Andrade Mendoza chooses a book in the UA Main Library on Sept. 1. Mendoza is an undocumented immigrant with lawful presence under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The right of Arizona Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival status students to receive in-state tuition is being challenged by Assistant Attorney General Leslie Cooper. Depending on the Court of Appeals’ decision, Arizona colleges and universities could be prevented from offering in-state tuition to students with DACA status.

DACA status makes it possible to defer removal for individuals who came to the U.S. as children. With this status, these individuals can defer removal for two years before having to renew their application for further deferral. In some cases, those who receive DACA status are eligible for employment authorization and a Social Security number.

The option to apply for DACA status was put into action by the Obama Administration in 2012.

With these benefits comes the added opportunity for children and adults to be able to apply and attend college. Whether those students can receive in-state tuition, however, is a decision that was left up to state governments.

In 2006, Arizona passed Proposition 300, which states that any person without lawful immigration status and enrolled in state universities or community colleges, is not entitled to receive tuition waivers or in-state tuition.

After DACA status was made available, the Maricopa County Community College system began granting in-state tuition to its DACA students. In 2014, the Arizona Attorney General at the time, Tom Horne, sued the college district because DACA students who had acquired work visas under the program were allowed to pay lower tuition.

The court decision ruled that Arizona law does not prohibit benefits from immigrants who are lawfully in the U.S. Since DACA students are considered, under federal law, lawfully in the U.S., these students could receive in-state tuition.

With this decision, the Arizona Board of Regents moved to make in-state tuition available to DACA students attending the three public Arizona universities in May 2015. With the Regents’ decision, DACA students were able to receive in-state tuition for the first time this fall.

According to the UA’s Office of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Advancement, 28 of the 43,088 students who enrolled in fall 2015, were able to receive in-state tuition due to DACA status. According to the board’s assistant vice president of public affairs, Sarah Harper, the DACA decision has not had a negative impact on university financials.

Under the circumstances, the regents plan to stick to its decision to offer in-state tuition to dreamers.

On Nov. 19, in a statement provided by Harper, the Board’s President, Eileen Klein, acknowledged the recent appeal of the attorney general in an email statement, and said that she does not see a change coming from this appeal.

“The Arizona Board of Regents is aware that Arizona’s Attorney General today filed an opening brief for an appeal against the ruling that provides DACA students eligibility for in-state tuition.The Arizona Board of Regents allows DACA students who meet statutory and policy requirements for residency to establish in-state residency for tuition purposes at our Arizona public universities, in accordance with state law. The Board anticipates no change.”

For dreamers around Arizona, the current case at the Court of Appeals could have a significant impact on their access to higher education.

Follow Michelle Jaquette on Twitter.

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