Arizona Violates State and Federal Law in Bid to Strip DACA students of in-state tuition

PHOENIX, AZ - The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), together with the Ortega Law Firm and Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, PLC, today filed a motion in Maricopa County Superior Court seeking permission to intervene and defend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) students at the center of a dispute between the State of Arizona and the Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board ("MCCCD"). Arizona only now seeks to prevent DACA students from presenting federal employment authorization documents ("EADs") as evidence of eligibility for in-state tuition at MCCCD, even though MCCCD has accepted this federal form for many years.

"In denying in-state tuition to DACA students, Arizona has attacked its own social and financial interest while compromising the constitutional rights of those students," stated Martha L. Gomez, MALDEF staff attorney. "As a nation, we remain stronger when we protect each other's rights and nurture the American dream for all people, including immigrants."

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. Yet, the Attorney General violates both state and federal law in an attempt to deprive DACA students of in-state tuition.

"This lawsuit by the state of Arizona against one of its own community college systems epitomizes the insane lengths to which the state's leadership will go in the continued and ill-fated pursuit of the state's own, separate immigration policy," said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "Ultimately, the state has suffered and will continue to suffer from the very real costs of this dead-end political agenda; our intervention seeks to ameliorate some of the suffering that the state would cause."

In its memorandum to the Court, MALDEF asserts that if Arizona were to prevail, applicants would lose their existing in-state tuition rate and pay 291 percent more tuition for the same classes they now take. It suggests that the added cost would likely cause DACA students to take fewer classes, drop out of school for a discrete time, or abandon their career aspirations altogether. Applicants may also work longer hours to earn more money, which would severely cut into their study time, hurt their grades, and undermine their prospects of transferring to competitive universities.

"This lawsuit continues to implement a close-minded brand of politics in this state," said co-counsel, Nathan Fidel of Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, PLC. "Impeding people from receiving the education they have earned is bad for Arizona."

Co-counsel Danny Ortega of Ortega Law Firm added: "Arizona should not build barriers to educational access. These DACA students represent the changing face of America and denying them their well-earned opportunity to advance their studies only hurts our state. Rather than placing restrictions on their educational access we should be ensuring we do all we can to create opportunities to educate and advance Arizona's next business, academic, and community leaders."

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," 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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