Arizona Fights In-State Tuition for Immigrants

PHOENIX (CN) – Arizona’s attorney general sued a Phoenix-area community college to stop it from charging only in-state tuition to immigrants authorized to remain in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
     Arizona sued the Maricopa County Community College District Board, in Maricopa County Court.
     The Maricopa County Community College District has more than 265,000 students in 10 campuses and two “skills centers” in and around Phoenix. Forty-nine percent of its students are “non-Anglo,” according to the district website.
     Attorney General Tom Horne claims he learned in September that Maricopa County Community College – one of the largest community college districts in the United States – was granting in-state tuition to young immigrants who had applied for employment authorization under the deferred action program.
     The acronym-laden lawsuit refers to the defendant as MCCCD and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as DACA.
     Horne complains that after the DACA program was instituted in 2012, granting legal status to qualified people whose parents brought them to the United States as children, the college announced “that it would accept an employment authorization document issued to a DACA-eligible alien pursuant to the DACA policy as evidence that the alien qualified for in-state tuition rates.”
     Under DACA, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “announced that it would exercise its prosecutorial discretion to allow certain young aliens brought to this country as children who meet specified criteria to remain in the United States for up to two years and to obtain a work permit,” Horne says in the complaint.
     He claims the college policy violates a 2006 Arizona law – Proposition 300 – passed by voters “to prevent persons who are not eligible for state and local benefits from receiving certain state or local benefits including in-state tuition rates.”
     The law, which passed with 71 percent of the vote, prohibits “a student who does not have lawful immigration status from qualifying as an in-state student for tuition purposes,” the complaint states. It also prevents such students from receiving any financial aid paid from state funds.
     Horne claims the policy also violates the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, passed by the Congress in 1996.
     Arizona claims that law “limited a state’s ability to grant state and local public benefits to many aliens.”
     This included any post-secondary education benefits, “for which payments or assistance are provided to an individual, household, or family eligibility unit by an agency of a state or local government or by appropriated funds of a state or local government’ such as in-state tuition rates,” according to the complaint.
     The act does allow “a state to grant state or local public benefits, such as postsecondary in-state tuition rates, to aliens who are not otherwise qualified for such benefits … only if the state passes a law after August 22, 1996, that affirmatively does so,” the complaint states.
     Horne says Arizona has not passed such a law.
     A federal judge ruled in May that Arizona can deny driver’s licenses to immigrants who qualify under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
     To qualify for the program, immigrants must be younger than 30, have come to the United States before they were 16, and lived in the country for at least five years before the program’s announcement. They must also be enrolled in school or have graduated, or be an honorably discharged veteran.
     Horne seeks a declaration that state law prohibits MCCCD from “granting DACA-eligible individuals in-state tuition rates.”

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