AZ Regents ignore court, affirm in-state tuition for illegals
- The Arizona Court of Appeals recently ruled that DACA recipients are ineligible to receive in-state tuition at the state's public universities under a ballot measure approved by voters in 2006.
- Despite the ruling, the Arizona Board of Regents announced this week that it would continue offering in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrant students unless and until the Arizona Supreme Court compels it to stop.
Illegal immigrants will continue to receive in-state tuition at Arizona’s public universities, at least until the state’s Supreme Court addresses a recent decision banning the practice.
After the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was implemented in 2012, the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCP) began accepting “employment authorization certificates” issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as proof of residency for the purpose of applying in-state tuition rates, a practice that had initially been upheld by a trial court after the Arizona Attorney General’s office objected that it ran afoul of a ballot measure approved by voters in 2006.
“Until a decision is reached by the Arizona Supreme Court, the board will continue to provide in-state tuition to these students,” the Arizona Board of Regents declared in a statement, noting that it had voted on the decision in a special meeting convened specifically to address the latest legal developments.
In a section on “background information” appended at the end of the succinct statement, the Regents noted that this is not the first action they have taken on behalf of DACA students, saying that “last December, the board sent a letter to then President-elect Donald Trump, citing the board’s concern for DACA students, [and] requesting he and his administration work with Congress to design and provide relief for these students within the overall approach to immigration enforcement and reform.”
The Arizona Daily Star reports that Regent Jay Heiler cast the sole vote against disregarding the Court of Appeals ruling, arguing that the decision was “founded largely in state law as enacted by the voters” and opining that “this board needs to honor that.”
Regent Rick Myers, however, indicated that the board won’t consider the latest ruling to be “settled law” until a final determination is made by the Supreme Court, saying, “I believe that until we have settled law that is contrary to our ability to do this, that it’s the right thing for us to continue to offer the in-state tuition.”
Board Chairman Bill Ridenour, who is also an attorney, similarly asserted that he sees no reason for the board to scrap its current policy unless and until the Supreme Court compels it to do so.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich offered a contrasting assessment, however, saying that sympathy for illegal immigrant students does not take precedence over duly-enacted laws.
“Proposition 300 passed with over 70 percent of the vote, and it included eligibility standards for in-state tuition,” he told The State Press. “I am sympathetic to all young adults looking to improve their lives, but as Attorney General my job is to defend the law and not second guess the will of Arizona voters."
Campus Reform reached out to the Arizona Board of Regents for clarification of its obligations under the Appeals Court ruling, but did not receive a response.
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