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Education

Arizona Universities May Open In-State Tuition to Deferred Action Beneficiaries

Arizona Universities May Open In-State Tuition to Deferred Action Beneficiaries

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Undocumented immigrants who obtain work permits under the federal Deferred Action program may qualify for in-state tuition at public universities in Arizona.

A 2007 state law requires undocumented Arizona residents attending public universities and community colleges to pay tuition at the much higher foreign-student rate.

Following the Aug. 15 launch of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, Arizona’s largest community college system - serving greater Phoenix - announced that it will allow immigrants who are accepted into the program to pay in-state tuition.

Successful applicants for Deferred Action receive a renewable two-year exemption from deportation and a work permit. The program aims to help the undocumented youth who would be legalized by the DREAM Act, a decade-old bill that remains stalled in Congress.

“All students who obtain a work permit from the federal government could be eligible to pay tuition as Arizona residents,” Tom Gariepy, director of Marketing and Communications at Maricopa Community Colleges, told Efe.

The Deferred Action beneficiaries will have to prove that they graduated from an Arizona high school or have lived in the state for at least a year prior to enrollment, he said.

The Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s three public universities, is now reviewing a proposal to allow Deferred Action recipients to pay in-state tuition.

Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, has already signed an executive order banning Deferred Action recipients from receiving any state benefits, including a driver’s license or any state-issued official identification.

“The parents of the DREAMers, and some of them are homeowners in Arizona, pay their property taxes. I believe they have the right to pay tuition as residents of this state,” Arizona Dream Act Coalition president Dulce Matuz told Efe.

The main obstacle facing undocumented young people is how Arizona chooses to define the residency requirement, she said.

“I have 12 years of living in Arizona. I pay my taxes and now I have a work permit. I don’t see why I can’t pay tuition as a state resident,” Matuz said.

Other states, such as neighboring California, are considering legislation granting undocumented students the right to pay in-state tuition at public universities.

“Unfortunately, here in Arizona we see how our governor has decided to attack youth, education. We must remain involved and ask everybody who can do it to exercise their political power at the polls,” Matuz said.

Brewer’s veto of driver’s licenses for Deferred Action participants came two months after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the most controversial element of Arizona’s harsh SB 1070 immigration law.

The provision, known as “show me your papers,” requires state and local law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the country without authorization.