DACA student on court overturning in-state tuition: 'I will cont - Tucson News Now

DACA student on court overturning in-state tuition: 'I will continue to take classes'

Dreamers said they will continue to fight for and focus on their education. Dreamers said they will continue to fight for and focus on their education.
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

In a unanimous decision this week, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that young immigrants granted deferred deportation status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program started by former president Barack Obama are not eligible for in-state college tuition, and it's leaving some students worried about the future.

"I have a lot of students that I work with now that I'm a teacher and they are undocumented," said Andrea Vasquez Mata, a Tucson DACA recipient turned teacher. "They're scared. They've been reaching out to me."

A judge's 2015 decision allowed lower tuition rates for DACA recipients, also known as DREAMers, but the appeals court says federal immigration law allows each state to decide on optional benefits for DACA recipients.

Arizona law bans state benefits for undocumented immigrants.

"The first thing that went through my head is "Not again," said Anakarina Rodriguez, Tucson coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, an organization that advocates on social and economic issues in the Latino community.

Rodriguez said there are nearly 28,000 DACA recipients in Arizona. The decision affects at least several hundred current state university students and as well as those attending community colleges.

“I’m taking classes this summer because in-state tuition is a little more affordable," said Gloria Valadez, a DACA student at Pima Community College featured in a news release sent by Living United for Change in Arizona, also known as LUCHA. "Tuesday’s ruling won’t stop me from enrolling in the fall, and I will continue to take classes. I will work alongside my community to keep in-state tuition for DACAmented students.”

In Tucson, the cost difference can cost these DREAMers big bucks. If you're a Pima County resident, you're going to be paying $81.50 per credit hour as opposed to $303 for non-residents.

A spokesperson for Pima Community College said the college started allowing DACA students to pay in-state tuition in 2013 and said they're reviewing Tuesday's ruling.

As of February, PCC has 518 DACA students since DACA started.

Arizona Board of Regents president Eileen Klein said they're reviewing this decision made by the court and "will be monitoring the case for further developments including any decision by the Maricopa County Community College District to seek further review."

Klein said if Tuesday's decision stands, though DACA students will no longer qualify for in-state tuition at public universities in the state, they may be eligible for the non-resident tuition rate for Arizona high school graduates that the board adopted in 2015.

"That rate is 150 percent of undergraduate resident tuition," said Klein. "Nevertheless, we recognize that decision is difficult news for the DACA students currently at our public universities. While the board and our universities seek in all ways to honor and obey both state and federal law, we are concerned about the success and needs of the DACA students who have selected to earn their degree at our universities."

Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who appealed the 2015 decision, said Proposition 300, which says university students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, or who do not have lawful immigration status, are not eligible for in-state tuition status or financial aid that is funded or subsidized by state monies, passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.

He said though he understands the hardships DREAMers may face, he has to enforce the law.

"I am sympathetic to all young adults looking to improve their lives, but as Attorney General my job is to defend the law and not second guess the will of Arizona voters,"  Brnovich said.

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