Arizona Supreme Court: No more in-state tuition for Dreamers

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In a brief order Monday morning the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that it violates both state and federal law to offer those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the same tuition as paid by other state residents.

Since 2015, DACA recipients have been able to pay in-state tuition at Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and the Maricopa Community Colleges.

Chief Justice Scott Bales wrote the decision order and said it had been issued quickly to "allow as much time as possible for planning by those affected".

The 7-0 ruling upheld an earlier decision in the Court of Appeals past year that said DACA recipients, often called DREAMers, who have been granted "lawful status" but not "legal status" do not qualify to pay resident rates. It's estimated that more than 2,000 DACA recipients attend community college or a state university.

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President of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition Karina Ruiz told the Arizona Republic a lack of access to federal or state financial aid made it hard for DACA recipients to pay in-state rates and the ruling will make pursuing higher education "almost impossible" for them. During a court hearing last week the justices had a series of pointed questions for Mary O'Grady, who was defending the policy enacted by the Maricopa Community Colleges of permitting dreamers to pay in-state tuition.

Rates are substantially less than what non-resident students pay. My parents can't afford that.

"While people can disagree what the law should be, I hope we all can agree that the attorney general must enforce the law as it is, not as we want it to be", Brnovich said in a statement on Monday.

That includes "a United States citizenship and immigration services employment authorization document" - precisely the document issued to DACA recipients. But this ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court doubles the tuition cost for DACA recipients. Existing state and federal law for in-state tuition eligibility does not extend to students without permanent legal status, according to the ruling.

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Karina Ruiz, executive director of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, said in a news conference the decision "again shows that the politicians are going to continue their attacks on our community", preventing students "from going to college, from contributing to society, from bettering themselves". And that, he said, means the state and its taxpayers would not be subsidizing the cost of education for Dreamers who, the way the court has read the law, are not here legally.

The Arizona Supreme Court has chose to put an additional obstacle to around 2,000 undocumented young students who arrived in the country as children (Dreamers), in their struggle to lead a normal American life. She said she found out that she was undocumented when SB1070 was being debated in the state legislature. As President Obama forthrightly acknowledged when he established the program in 2012 (after repeatedly saying he did not have the authority to do so), DACA does not bestow legal status on beneficiaries.

"This clarification does nothing to alter our steadfast commitment to making higher education a reality for all Arizona high school graduates, including those who have DACA status", Crow, the ASU president, said in a statement.

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