Arizona Judge Backs In-State Tuition for DACA-Eligible Students

An Arizona judge ruled on Tuesday that public colleges in the state may offer in-state tuition to students who have work visas under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, The Arizona Republic reported.

The deferred action program, launched by President Barack Obama in 2012, is intended to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors from deportation if they meet certain criteria. Those approved can remain in the country for two years and receive federal work permits.

Following the creation of the DACA program, Arizona's Maricopa Community College District decided that those students were in fact legally in the United States and offered them in-state rates. The district's 10 community colleges charge $84 per credit for in-state tuition, compared with $325 per credit for out-of-state tuition.

Former state Attorney General Tom Horne filed suit in 2013 to block the rates, arguing that the tuition policy violated a 2006 voter-enacted law barring public benefits for undocumented immigrants.

Judge Arthur Anderson of the Maricopa County Superior Court ruled this week that the Arizona law does not bar benefits to immigrants lawfully in the country, and that under federal law, the DACA students are lawfully present. As such, the state could not challenge the in-state rates offered by the community college district.

"Federal law, not state law, determines who is lawfully present . . . The circumstance under which a person enters the U.S. does not determine that person's lawful presence here," he said in the ruling.

While Judge Anderson's decision covers only Maricopa County, the precedent he set could influence other public colleges in the state, the Republic reported, citing a lawyer who represented the community college district.

Maricopa Community College District Chancellor Rufus Glasper said that some 1,200 students were paying the lower tuition under the DACA policy, and more would probably enroll now that it had won judicial support.

The office of Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Mr. Horne's Republican successor, stated that it is currently reviewing the decision and weighing all legal options including appeal.


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