Legislature Bill for Dreamers

Bipartisan AZ Legislature effort to ensure in-state tuition for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals community college students.

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Legislation proposed in the Arizona State Senate on by a bipartisan group of lawmakers would allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to once again pay in-state tuition at state community colleges.

After a week of preliminary talks, five state senators introduced SB1217 on Jan. 25. The bill allows any person who graduated from an Arizona high school to be entitled to pay the in-state tuition rate at any Arizona community college, nullifying a ruling by Arizona’s Supreme Court.

The bill has strong bipartisan support, with Republican State Sen. Heather Carter and Kate Brophy McGee, and Democrats Tony Navarrette, Sally Gonzales and Jamescita Peshlakai cosponsoring the bill. According to KTAR News, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is also supporting the bill.

Last year, the State Supreme Court ruled DACA students could no longer pay the in-state tuition rate at community colleges within the state in a lawsuit between Maricopa Community Colleges and the State of Arizona. According to Rep. Raquel Terán, “The Governor and Attorney General didn’t have the political will to let go [of the lawsuit].”

Rep. Terán, who made immigration issues a focus of her campaign and supports this bill, believes the conservative-leaning Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is supporting the legislation because it has a negative impact on Arizona’s economy. She drew comparisons to the controversy surrounding SB1070 nearly a decade ago, when the Chamber intervened then as well.

“The Chamber came in full force with letters from sixty CEOs against anti-immigration bills. They flexed their muscles and no anti-immigration legislation has passed since then,” Rep. Terán said.

According to GCC President Dr. Teresa Leyba Ruiz, last year’s ruling has affected DACA students enrolled at GCC. “Based on a possible category [in the college’s student information system], we have been able to determine that we have definitely seen a decrease in the number of DACA students,” Dr. Ruiz said in an email.

Associated Student Government President Ashley Mazariegos echoed Dr. Ruiz’s sentiment, saying that most of the people she knew that are DACA students left GCC due to a lack of financial aid and rising tuition.