DREAMers failed by many, helped by few

Arizona has an education problem. We should stand for an education system that can be utilized by everyone. We should pass every bill that expands access to an education critical to success in the 21st century. Our culture should encourage — in all places of power — the ideal of a college education.

We don’t. This week’s cover article tells the story of DREAMErs. These men and women are hurting at the hands of a system that does not care about them, from Michael Crow to the Arizona Board of Regents to our legislatures in Arizona and in Washington. But, it begins with the law.

In Arizona, Proposition 300 forces undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition, causing a huge burden on a huge population that most needs access to education — and the American Dream that comes with it.

In November of last year, the Arizona Board of Regents rejected a proposal to allow DREAMers to pay 110 percent of in-state tuition. This, from the top people funding our schools, can only be described as pathetic. ABOR cannot act against the state law of Proposition 300, however, leaving their hands tied.

Michael Crow, another figurehead to blame, sees Proposition 300 as creating “…a group of students now that we’re unable to be as helpful with as we would like because we are constrained.”

But why can’t Arizona’s universities just read the statue as Maricopa Community College District does?

MCC Spokesman Tom Gariepy outlined MCCD’s policy: “… (a)
federal work permit is one of a number of documents that a person can use to establish what’s called ‘lawful presence’ in Arizona.” But, alas, MCCD was threatened with a lawsuit for using the federal criteria outlined in President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals instead of the state’s Proposition 300.

Enter Tom Horne, the state’s top attorney. Last year, he did his job as Arizona’s Attorney General and enforced Proposition 300.

So, where does that leave us? We have all these people bound and gagged by this law that quashes human potential and robs so many of a bright future.

It’s the fault of the Arizona Legislature. At the end of the day, all these executive agencies can only do what the law tells them.

In other states, like liberal California and conservative Texas, people are rallying around the idea that education matters because a better informed electorate and a brighter future for millions is an easily bipartisan idea.

Hands are tied, but it makes no sense to leave innocent lives without access to education. It’s important to realize that these ideals are not just statutes or soundbites, but the fortunes of our fellow students.

If it’s possible in Texas, we should be able to do it in Arizona. All it would take is collective action on the part of all the executives (ABOR, Michael Crow and Tom Horne).

These people could, if they wanted to, read the law as a federal interpretation and not as a state, and educational institutions would be able to accept DACA students.

Even with this alternative reading of the law, however, our elected officials, such as Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Avondale, must continue their fight to make college more affordable for those who are trapped in a horribly bureaucratic system without reprieve.

 

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