How much money should taxpayers spend to buff up Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s conservative bona fides?

Horne, who is already suing Maricopa County’s community college system, has now turned his attention to Pima Community College over providing reduced tuition for young immigrants who came into the country illegally.

As reported by the Star’s Carol Ann Alaimo, the attorney general sent a letter to PCC seeking information on the college’s practice of charging in-state tuition rates to students who qualify under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

It may be cynical to suggest Horne’s motivations are purely political as his bid for re-election looms, but seeing as how there is no clear good to be derived from his actions, suspicion is warranted and action required.

The attorney general should drop this fruitless pursuit.

Horne contends the reduced tuition violates state law that prohibits any public benefits going to people without legal status. The attorney general is correct that deferred action, which allows immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children to remain, does not confer legal status.

However, as PCC’s general counsel Jeff Silvyn countered in his response to Horne’s letter, state law regarding in-state tuition requires only “proof of lawful presence.” Acceptable forms of proof include the I-766 employment authorization document, which deferred action participants may receive since they are allowed by the Department of Homeland Security to be in the country.

While it is perfectly reasonable for a court to intervene when laws are apparently at odds, the attorney general is exercising his discretion against the public good. What is to be gained by preventing young immigrants, most of them already graduates of Arizona schools, the opportunity to continue their education?

More than 150 deferred-action beneficiaries are enrolled at PCC for the fall semester. Through in-state tuition they can attend for about $2,000 a year instead of the more than $9,000 paid for out-of-state tuition. That $7,000 means the difference between irregular attendance and timely graduation, between a chance at a better future or a life stuck at minimum wage.

The benefits of education cascade throughout the community and mitigate any cost to the state, which is more than can be said for Horne’s lawsuit.

The attorney general’s pursuit of this issue is not only a waste of resources — all parties involved are taxpayer-funded, after all — but a win for the state is a loss for the public good, leaving young immigrants eager to go to school locked out once more.

Surely the attorney general has better things to do with his time and our money.