Arizona regents voted today to tell President-elect Trump how he can legally allow “dreamers” to remain in this country without reaching the whole hot-button question of amnesty.
The letter makes the legal argument that those who were brought to this country illegally as children “lacked meaningful capacity to have violated our immigration laws.”
“Therefore, the case for deportation would be legally weak,” the letter reads.
But regent Jay Heiler, who crafted the letter the board unanimously approved, made it clear he believes that any relief has to come from Congress. He contends President Obama acted illegally in 2012 in creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The issue for the board is more than academic. It goes to the question of how much universities — and community colleges for that matter — have to charge students.
A 2006 voter-approved law says anyone who is “not a citizen or legal resident of the United States or who is without lawful immigration status is not entitled to classification as an in-state student” and denies them any type of financial assistance that comes from state funds.
In 2015, however, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson said the federal Department of Homeland Security considers those accepted into the DACA program to be here legally. He said DHS issues them Employment Authorization Documents permitting them to work — documents Arizona law says are a form of permissible identification for certain benefits.
And that, Anderson said, makes DACA recipients “lawfully present” in this country and therefore eligible for in-state tuition.
That ruling most immediately affected students in the Maricopa Community College system. But the regents voted almost immediately to offer the same in-state tuition to those with DACA status.
Regents staffers said today the best figures they have show 240 students who meet that qualification.
The problem is that Trump, who railed against illegal immigration during his campaign, can immediately rescind Obama’s program when he takes office Jan. 20. That would leave the dreamers without that protected status, forcing the regents to rescind the in-state tuition.
Today’s letter is designed to give Trump a legal option, at least for the dreamers, but in a way that does not force him to renege on his promise there will be no amnesty.
The president-elect has given indications he’s amenable to such a plan.
“We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” Trump told Time magazine.
“They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here,” he said. “Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”