PHOENIX — Taking aim largely at state universities, state Rep. Bob Thorpe is proposing to withhold state aid because they offer lower in-state tuition to “Dreamers.”
The proposal by the Flagstaff Republican empowers the attorney general to determine, on his or her own, that an educational institution that receives state funds “is in violation of state law or the constitution of Arizona.” If the school doesn’t back down in 60 days, it loses 10 percent of its state funding.
HB 2119 does not specifically mention tuition. But Thorpe told Capitol Media Services he crafted the measure following decisions by community colleges in several counties, including Maricopa and Pima, to conclude that those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are entitled to pay in-state tuition if they meet other residency requirements.
A 1998 voter-approved law reserves resident tuition for only those with “lawful immigration status.” The same measure also denies scholarships of public money to those who do not qualify.
Maricopa community colleges, however, decided to extend in-state tuition to DACA recipients who are given permission under policies of the Obama administration not only to remain but also to work. Their attorneys have argued that makes their presence legal.
The Attorney General’s Office disagreed and filed suit. But in 2015 a trial judge said as long as the Department of Homeland Security considers DACA recipients to be here legally, the state cannot establish a different standard.
Since then, the Arizona Board of Regents extended that same tuition basis to DACA recipients at the three state universities.
On Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Rusty Crandell urged the Court of Appeals to overturn that trial court ruling.
Thorpe said despite court rulings so far, not only on tuition but driver’s licenses, he does not accept the premise that President Obama has the authority by executive order to determine who can remain here legally.
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