Arizona Seeks to Block Students of In-State Tuition Eligibility

PHOENIX, AZ - The state court considering an unusual case in which Arizona is suing one of its own community college districts for recognizing that Arizonans should be treated equally, has granted MALDEF's motion to intervene to represent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students attending the Maricopa County College District (MCCD). On Friday, the Maricopa County Superior Court held a status conference regarding the dispute with the State of Arizona. Arizona seeks to prevent DACA students from presenting federal employment authorization documents ("EADs") as proof of eligibility for in-state tuition at MCCD, though MCCD has accepted this federal form for many years.

"This case is nothing short of intergovernmental bullying, with Arizona representing no one's best interests," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "By permitting intervention, the Court has recognized that students should be heard as Arizona targets and seeks to punish a local public college simply for providing equal educational opportunity."

In late March, the Maricopa County Superior Court granted MALDEF's motion to intervene on behalf of DACA students. The Court agreed with the applicants-two students attending MCCD-that they should be allowed to protect their right to in-state tuition by participating as Parties in the court case.

MALDEF, together with the Ortega Law Firm and Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, PLC, originally filed a November 2013 memorandum to the Court, asserting that if Arizona were to prevail, the applicants would lose their in-state tuition rate and be forced to pay 291 percent more tuition for the same classes they now attend. The added cost would likely cause the students to take fewer courses, drop out of school for a discrete time, or abandon their career aspirations. Higher tuition rates would lead to applicants working longer hours to earn more money, which would in turn cut students' time for studying, negatively affecting their grades, and undermining their prospects for transferring to more competitive universities.

Martha L. Gomez, MALDEF staff attorney, stated, "This intervention will allow the students to defend their existing in-state tuition rate, and more importantly, to show that the State of Arizona targeted them for being DACA recipients, in violation of their equal protection rights under the United States Constitution."

In June 2012, the Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security announced the DACA program. In order to qualify for the DACA relief young immigrants who entered the United States as children must meet several educational and residency requirements, undergo extensive criminal background checks, and establish that their individual circumstances justify a grant. Individuals granted DACA relief are permitted to remain in the United States for a renewable period of two years, are shielded from removal proceedings during that time, are eligible for federal EADs, and may apply for a Social Security Number.

Co-counsel Danny Ortega of Ortega Law Firm, stated, "I am pleased that those who are most affected by Tom Horne's misguided and mean spirited lawsuit will get to participate. I am confident that these deserving students will prevail."

Nathan Fidel of Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, PLC, added, "We are grateful for the opportunity to preserve Mr. Badillo and Ms.Vasquez's rights in this ill-conceived lawsuit brought by Tom Horne."

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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