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Arizona Supreme Court mulls immigrant tuition case

Posted at 7:37 AM, Apr 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-02 21:41:12-04

The Arizona Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on whether DACA recipients have legal status in the state and are entitled to in-state college tuition prices.

Hundreds of immigrant students attending college in Arizona are protected from deportation and allowed to work in the U.S. under a federal program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. 

However, the State of Arizona sued the Maricopa County Community College District arguing the students do not have legal status in the state and should pay out-of-state tuition.

Proposition 300, passed by Arizona voters in 2006, prohibits people without proper legal status from getting discounted tuition.

"So until something changes either at the national level or until they change the state law, it is what it is," said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "That law provides, unless you have legal status, you will not get in-state tuition."

An attorney for the college district disagrees, saying DACA recipients are allowed to live in our state, work, and get driver's licenses.

"In our view, DACA students are lawfully present, so they are different than those who are here without any government authorization," MCCCD attorney Mary O'Grady said.

An appeals court ruled that DACA recipients should pay out-of-state prices. The Arizona Supreme Court has no deadline to decide the case. One justice inquired about the students' deadline to pay fall tuition bills.

"It's really scary because I don't know if my scholarships will cover an out-of-state tuition increase," said Carlos Yanez, a freshman at Arizona State University.  

He wants to become a doctor. Yanez said he is "doing 19, 20 credits a semester because I have no idea when my opportunity to go to college will, you know, stop."

DACA recipients who have benefited from lower tuition costs in recent years rallied outside the Arizona Supreme Court building before the hearing.

"We don't want special favors, we want equity with other students with Arizona residency," said Belen Sisa, a 24-year-old senior at ASU whose parents brought her here from Argentina when she was six.

She is a co-founder of the group that organized the rally, Undocumented Students for Education Equity at ASU.