Arizona Supreme Court mulls immigrant tuition case

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Supreme Court said Monday that before colleges send out tuition letters for the next semester it will rule on whether immigrant students with deferred deportation status can continue to benefit from lower in-state school costs.

Chief Justice Scott Bales said the high court’s ruling would be issued “in due course” after a morning session that heard arguments from both sides.

Attorney Mary O’Grady, representing immigrant students, said that young people covered by the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known as DACA should be eligible for lower in-state tuition at Arizona state colleges because they have federal government permission to be in the U.S.

O’Grady noted that DACA recipients are allowed to have work permits and driver’s licenses.

But Arizona Asst. Attorney General Rusty D. Crandell said the state does not consider the students to be lawfully present in Arizona for the purpose of lower tuition.

The hearing came a day after a fresh blast of tweets by President Donald Trump on border and immigration issues, including a declaration that a deal to help “Dreamer” immigrants is “dead because the Democrats didn’t care or act.”

Former President Barack Obama created the DACA program to provide temporary protection and work permits to hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally after being brought here as children. The program was later closed to new entrants and Trump ended it last year.

Trump gave Congress six months to pass legislation enshrining it, but a deal has not been reached.

Monday’s hearing considered an effort by the Maricopa County Community Colleges District to overturn a June 2017 state Court of Appeals ruling that found young immigrants in the program aren’t eligible for lower in-state tuition.

That appellate court said DACA did not confer legal status and each state can decide on optional benefits for DACA recipients.

Arizona law bars public benefits such as in-state tuition for students without legal status.

DACA recipients who have benefited from lower tuition costs in recent years rallied outside the Arizona Supreme Court building before the hearing.

“We don’t want special favors, we want equity” with other students with Arizona residency, said Belen Sisa, a 24-year-old senior at Arizona State University whose parents brought her here from Argentina when she was six. She is a co-founder of the group that organized the rally, Undocumented Students for Education Equity at ASU.

Jocelyn Lopez, an 18-year-old who is finishing her first year at ASU studying biomedical sciences, said she will have to delay her dreams of becoming a doctor if she loses in-state tuition. Instead of paying about $12,000 a year, she’ll have to pay more than $30,000, she said.

“That’s really impossible for my family to pay,” said Lopez, who was 1 when her parents brought her to the U.S. from their native Guadalajara, Mexico, where her grandfather was an orthopedic surgeon.

 

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