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2015 May 30 - 09:19 am

Judge: Dreamers Can Get In-State Tuition in Arizona

Immigrants Covered by U. S. Deferred Deportation Policy Qualify for Benefit

PHOENIX (AP) — Young immigrants granted deferred deportation status by the Obama administration are eligible for in-state college tuition, a Maricopa County judge has ruled.

The decision from Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson comes in a lawsuit filed by former Attorney General Tom Horne against the Maricopa County Community College District. Horne contended that so-called “dreamers” offered deferred action status were not legally present in the U.S. and could not get state benefits because of a 2006 voter-enacted law known as Proposition 300.

But Anderson’s ruling said Proposition 300 doesn’t bar public benefits for immigrants lawfully in the U.S., and the federal government considers recipients of deferred action lawfully present. Thus, they can get lower instate tuition, he ruled.

“Federal law, not state law, determines who is lawfully present in the U.S.,” Anderson wrote.

“The state cannot establish subcategories of ‘lawful presence,’ picking and choosing when it will consider DACA recipients lawfully present and when it will not.”

The ruling is having a wider impact beyond the Maricopa college district. Two days after Anderson issued his ruling, the board overseeing Arizona’s three public universities cited it in voting unanimously to grant in-state tuition to young immigrants who qualify for deferred deportation.

“Obviously for the universities and for community colleges districts right now, it’s certainly valid for them to view this as something that does has some precedential value to them in terms of the fact that it is construing a state statute,” said Lynne Adams, the attorney who represented the college district in the case.

Regents said they believe the ruling applies statewide.

“Right now, it is not unsettled law as far as the state goes,” Regent Bill Ridenour said. “I think it’s frankly past time we did something for these students. We are trying to comply for state law; that was the reason for the 150 percent.”

President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Child hood Arrivals, or DACA, program in 2012 for young people who had been brought to the United States illegally as children.

The community college district began offering lower in-state tuition to DACA recipients shortly after Obama’s action, and Horne challenged it in court.

College district Chancellor Rufus Glasper said he knows the state disagreed with the district’s decision to offer lower tuition to dreamers. “And what we asked for initially is let someone independent of the two different parties make that judgment, and the judge did that,” Glasper said.

Enrollment dropped by more than 10,000 students when the district implemented state rules on legal status required by Proposition 300, he said. Costs went from $91 per credit hour to $314 credit hour, with full-time student taking 30 units per year.

Glasper said about 1,200 students are getting lower tuition under the DACA guidelines and more are out there. “So we believe that our students benefit from this, and I believe those other additional DACA students out there can see this as an opportunity and return back to our campuses,” he said.

State Rep. Martin Quezada said the moves will increase access to college for his constituents.

“I’m thrilled to see (regents)move so quickly on this issue,” he said. “The effects for my constituents are huge. I’ve had so many students who have contacted me telling me that they simply can’t afford to pursue a higher education.’’ The higher tuition combined with limited financial aid resources for DACA students prices them out of the universities.

“And these are kids that want to contribute, they want to learn and they want to be contributing members of our society,” Quezada said. “Now, with this, they’ll really be able to do that.”

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