Denying In-State Tuition for Arizona’s DACA Students

On December 7, 2006, Proposition 300 passed in Arizona with the approval of 71.4 percent of the voters. According to the state’s Attorney General,

The enacted measure requires verification of immigration status of persons who are applying for state-funded services . . . [which include] in-state tuition and financial aid for college students.

From the point of view of an Arizona state representative, the measure was necessary because “illegal” immigration was having catastrophic effects:

Arizona has been overwhelmed with illegal immigration and all the negative things that follow — crime, increased public service costs, especially education, and depression of our wages — and the federal government seems barely capable of doing much. . . . Denying the in-state tuition . . . deters illegal immigrants from coming here.

In 2015, recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Arizona were allowed to pay in-state tuition following a judge’s ruling that

DACA recipients were considered legally present in the U.S. and therefore qualify for state benefits.

Arizona’s Attorney General appealed the decision and this month a federal appeals court ruled that

federal immigration law allows each state to decide on optional benefits for DACA recipients [and] Arizona law [i.e., Proposition 300] bars in-state tuition for anyone who doesn’t have a legal status.

The consequences for the education of Arizona’s DACA youth are substantial. For example, at the Maricopa Community Colleges that operate in the larger Phoenix area, the cost per credit hour is $86 for Arizona residents and $241 for non-residents. At Arizona State University the current undergraduate basic tuition is $10,792 for residents and $27,372 for non-residents.

Some students intend to persist. Belen Sisa a junior at Arizona State University who came from Argentina when she was six-years old, said “I can’t let this stop me. I’m so close to give up now.” Oscar Hernandez was brought from Mexico when he was 9-years old and has lived in Arizona ever since. He has one year left to get his degree but it may take him three years to finish if he has to pay out-of-state tuition but said that “he is determined to finish.” Their resolve is admirable, because they will unjustly confront new obstacles in the pursuit of their education.

Karina Ruiz, board president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group that advocates for undocumented young children brought to the U.S. as children, criticized the state for taking away in-state tuition from DACA recipients. “This is all hate,” Ruiz said.

There is nothing else. There is no reason for the state to be fighting students that want to get educated. This is wrong.

It is difficult to disagree with her. What rational purpose would it serve to deprive the DACA students who have been in Arizona since they were very young of in-state tuition? How just is it? Doesn’t a state benefit from an educated citizenry? How will it discourage undocumented migration?

Arizona has a long history of white racism. In recent times the undocumented have become the target. This is the state where Sheriff Joe Arpaio, according to the U.S. Department of Justice,

Oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history.

Arpaio is currently on trial for allegedly

defying a federal judge’s orders that barred [him] from enforcing federal immigration law.

I wish I could be optimistic and hope for a quick solution. But with Donald Trump in the White House, racists in Arizona and elsewhere will find fertile ground for their odious plans.

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