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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Immigrants Win Bid for Arizona in-State Tuition

PHOENIX (CN) - Undocumented immigrants allowed to stay in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are eligible to pay in-state tuition, a Maricopa County judge ruled Tuesday.

Former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne sued the Maricopa County Community College District in 2013 to stop it from charging in-state tuition to students illegally in the United States.

The Maricopa County Community College District is "one of the largest providers of higher education" in the U.S., with more than 260,000 students in 10 colleges and two "skills centers" in and around Phoenix.

Horne alleged in the 2013 complaint that the district's policy violated Proposition 300, a 2006 voter-approved law "to prevent persons who are not eligible for state and local benefits from receiving certain state or local benefits including in-state tuition rates."

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson disagreed in a May 1 ruling, finding that "individuals who are 'lawfully present' in the U.S. are not excluded from state 'resident education benefits' by federal law."

To benefit from DACA, immigrants must be younger than 30, have come to the U.S. 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.

"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," Anderson continued.

Maricopa County Community College District Chancellor Rufus Glasper says the decision "endorses" the district's mission for "accessible and affordable education" for all community members.

"The real winners in this case are the students of Maricopa County, and each one can continue to count on us to help them fulfill their educational goals," Glasper said.

The Arizona Board of Regents, the governing body of Arizona's three public universities - University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University - says it will meet today to discuss the potential impact of the ruling on its tuition practices.

"We are currently reviewing the court's decision," said Arizona Board of Regents' President Eileen I. Klein. "As we do with all board policies, we will comply fully with state and federal law."

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office is reviewing the decision to determine if it will appeal.

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