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Arizona Supreme Court rules DACA recipients cannot receive in-state tuition

The Arizona Supreme Court unanimously upheld an Appeals Court ruling that stripped DACA students of in-state tuition


ASU freshman Jocelyn Lopez gives a speech regarding DACA recipients receiving in-state tuition outside the Arizona Supreme Court on Monday, April 2, 2018.

The Supreme Court of Arizona ruled that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients are ineligible for in-state tuition in a brief review filed Monday, destabilizing the futures of DACA students in Arizona.  

The Court upheld a 3-0 ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals in favor of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a suit against the Maricopa County Community College District. 

"While people can disagree what the law should be, I hope we all can agree that the attorney general must enforce the law as it is, not as we want it to be," said Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a statement from his office. "As Attorney General, my duty is to uphold the law and the will of more than one million voters who passed Proposition 300 in 2006."

Proposition 300 was a ballot measure requiring a verification of immigration status for those seeking state services.

State universities have been charging DACA students in-state tuition since a 2015 Maricopa County Superior Court ruling said the recipients are eligible for the reduced tuition since they are lawfully in the country. 

In a statement to The State Press on Monday evening, ASU President Michael Crow said the Court's decision "does nothing to alter our steadfast commitment to making higher education a reality for all Arizona high school graduates, including those who have DACA status."

Crow said the administration will "continue to communicate with our ASU students who have DACA status and the entire ASU community as more information becomes available."

Belen Sisa, a DACA recipient and senior studying political science at ASU, said she’s disappointed in Arizona. 

“I feel the pain that these students are going to feel,” Sisa said. “The Supreme Court of Arizona does not realize the incredibly wrong and damaging decision they made today because the impact of this is going to continue on for generations.”

Sisa said that her and other activists refuse to give up and will figure out their options from this point on. 

“We’re going to continue to do what we’ve always done, which is fight back and instill hope that this isn’t the end,” Sisa said. “We will continue to fight for equity and justice, we shouldn’t be attacked by the only place we call home and the only public education system we’ve ever known."

Base tuition and fees for undergraduate in-state students during the 2018-19 school year at ASU amount to $10,822. For non-residents and international students, the total is around $30,000 a year. 

Jocelyn Lopez, a freshman student and DACA recipient studying biomedical sciences at ASU, said the decision will force her to leave ASU. 

“That saddens me because now I know I can’t go to school,” Lopez said. “I’m going to have to drop out of ASU.”

Lopez said she will consider moving out of state for college.

“I don’t understand why it’s only happening in Arizona when DACA students are all over the U.S.,” Lopez said. “Why are we the only ones being underrepresented right now?”

David Montenegro, a DACA recipient and senior studying secondary education at ASU, said the decision will force him to rely on private funding such as scholarships. He said if he can not receive private funding, his academic career will be in jeopardy. 

“I’m not going to be able to complete my degree and I think it’s absurd because I’m only two semesters away from graduating,” Montenegro said. “I’ve already spent a lot of time, money (and) effort, and once I’m getting close to the finish line now I have to face this stupid and absurd reality.”

Read more: Has ASU lived up to the promises it made to DACA students?

ASU President Michael Crow said March 2 in an interview with The State Press that he is working to create financial support for students who are DACA recipients. 

"We just found a scholarship for an incoming freshman DACA student, we basically have financial aid packaging we are developing and putting in place," Crow said. “We will go back to raising more financial aid from private sources to help them with their tuition.

“We are a place that educates students, these students graduated from Arizona high schools, they are admitted to the University, they’re legally present in the United States," Crow said. 

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, issued a statement regarding the Supreme Court of Arizona’s decision. 

“These Dreamers grew up attending Arizona schools, and want to pursue careers that will give back to Arizona’s communities and boost our economy,” Gallego said. “But thanks to today’s decision, they will now have to pay triple what their classmates pay in order to achieve those goals. This is a terrible blow to Arizona Dreamers who want nothing more than to pursue their American dreams.”

Bill Ridenour, the Chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, said in a statement that the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision will negatively affect DACA students. 

Ridenour also said DACA recipients who attended Arizona high school for at least three years could receive a reduced tuition rate through the Non-Resident Tuition Rate for Arizona High School Graduates.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comment from ASU President Michael Crow.

Fortesa Latifi contributed to this story.

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