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Students react to decision on tuition for 'Dreamers'
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Students react to decision on tuition for 'Dreamers'

Az Board of Regents will discuss issue Thursday at special meeting

  • 'Dreamers' celebrate the decision Tuesday by a Maricopa Superior Court judge to allow Maricopa's community college system to offer in-state tuition to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com'Dreamers' celebrate the decision Tuesday by a Maricopa Superior Court judge to allow Maricopa's community college system to offer in-state tuition to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Around 20 students and supporters celebrated Wednesday a judge's decision that "Dreamers" are eligible for in-state tuition at some of Arizona's community colleges, saying they would continue to push for in-state tuition at the state's universities. 

Events were held in Tucson and Phoenix to mark Tuesday's decision by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge Anderson that because federal law determines who is lawfully present in the United States, the state could not refuse to give in-state tuition to those covered by the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Known as DACA, the policy defers deportation for two years, and grants work permits to unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children.  

"The circumstance under which a person enters the U.S. does not determine that person’s lawful presence here," wrote Judge Arthur Anderson. "The state cannot establish subcategories of 'lawful presence,' picking and choosing when it will consider DACA recipients lawfully present and when it will not." 

Former Attorney General Tom Horne launched the lawsuit in 2013, based on a 2006 voter-enacted law known as Proposition 300. Under the law, students who are in the country without authorization cannot receive in-state tuition and financial aid. 

This meant that students with DACA paid around four times as much per credit and other in-state residents. 

But Anderson said that the Department of Homeland Security considers DACA recipients lawfully present, and issues work permits, called Employment Authorization Documents. These work permits are "appropriate documentation of lawful presence," he wrote. 

The decision is good news for DACA recipients such as Alejandra Salazar, 23, a student at Pima Community College. Salazar is pursuing an associates business degree and hopes to apply to University of Arizona's Eller College of Management, however until recently the nonresident tuition made the leap financially impossible.

"I've been paying for classes at Pima out of my own pocket, taking one class at a time," Salazar said. "But, the fees at the University of Arizona would be impossible to cover even with the help of scholarships." 

In Arizona, there are around 32,000 young adults eligible for deferred action, and around 19,000 who will be eligible in the future, according to research by the Migration Policy Institute. 

Pima Community College has allowed DACA recipients to pay in-state tuition since 2013, however, the Arizona Board of Regents, which controls the state's three universities, has yet to follow their example.  

On Monday, the board considered a new non-resident rate of 150 percent of the in-state tuition, and the board said on Tuesday that it was reviewing Anderson's decision. 

The board will meet Thursday morning to discuss the issue. 

For Josue Saldivar, 24, a shift in tuition at the UA means he can continue his education. 

"It's just a struggle. You can only apply for so many scholarships and there's only so much money available," Saldivar said. The decision by Anderson was a good one, he said. " I hope the board recognizes this, we need to be able to go to school, we want to be able to go to school." 

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