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Immigrant youths want in-state tuition

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Immigrant youths who are protected from deportation under a federal program say they deserve to pay in-state tuition rates at Arizona universities.

The Arizona Board of Regents will consider a proposal to lower tuition for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals participants to 150 percent of in-state tuition. They pay out-of-state tuition, nearly three times as much as students who pay in-state. Voters in 2006 approved a measure known as Proposition 300 banning students who lack legal status from paying in-state tuition and from receiving any state financial aid. In-state tuition and fees cost over $10,000 annually.

But students in Tucson and Phoenix say that doesn’t go far enough and that many still wouldn’t be able to afford the approximate $15,000 or more annually in tuition and fees if the proposal is approved. Regents will review the proposal at a meeting next week.

“One hundred-and-fifty percent is not attainable. Nobody has that kind of money. It’ll open the doors for some people, but not for the majority,” Dario Andrade Mendoza said at a rally in Tucson on Wednesday. A similar rally was held in Phoenix on Tuesday.

Andrade Mendoza, 20, studies part time at Pima Community College. He says he has top grades and wants to transfer to the University of Arizona to get his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He already has an associate degree from the college.

But the price tag to do so, about $30,000 a year, is impossible, he says.

Andrade Mendoza moved to the United States when he was 8 years old, and he’s attended Arizona schools since. Along with being protected from deportation, Andrade Mendoza and the approximate 700,000 immigrant youths enrolled in DACA receive social security numbers and a work permit.

“We’ve been residents of this state for a long time,” he said.

Regents have addressed issuing in-state tuition to DACA recipients by saying their eligibility for it is in litigation, and although they have a lawful presence, the state maintains they do not have a lawful immigration status as required by Arizona law.

But not all agree with that DACA recipients should receive in-state tuition.

State Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the program does not provide a lawful status.

“While I am sympathetic and while I would like to see them get in-state, that can’t be done until the federal government, through Congress, passes a law legalizing them, or until the Arizona voters reverse Prop. 300,” Kavanagh said.

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