Congressman Gallego Calls for End to Lawsuit Against In-State Tuition for DACA Recipients

Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego and others are calling on Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to end a lawsuit that seeks to end in-state tuition for young people who have been granted relief from deportation.

Although many Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in Arizona have been educated their entire lives in Arizona public schools, the Attorney General's Office under former AG Tom Horne sued the Maricopa County Community College board last year in an attempt to end the practice of granting in-state tuition for students who are DACA recipients.

"We want these young men and women to succeed, we want these young men and women to continue to build their skill sets, and continue to contribute to this economy, because they're not going anywhere," Gallego said today from the steps of the county courthouse in Phoenix.

"We are throwing away an investment we have [made] for 12 years in these young men and women," Gallego said. "That is not what Arizona needs, especially in these tough economic times."

A hearing in the case was scheduled to take place this afternoon, but it was postponed at the last minute until later this month.

And despite the calls to end the lawsuit, Brnovich says it's not happening.

"In 2006, voters approved Proposition 300 which provides that college students who do not have lawful immigration status are ineligible for in-state tuition," Brnovich says in a statement. "Arizonans who do not agree with the in-state tuition requirements have the right to work through the legislative process to change them. Arizona voters elected me to enforce the law, not make the law."

Those opposing the lawsuit argue that the DACA program, and the work permits authorized as a result of that program, do indeed provide a lawful status.

Two DACA recipients joined Gallego in front of the courthouse to join in the call to end the lawsuit.

"We simply want to be treated the same way our classmates are treated, the same way the people we grew up with are treated," said Luis Avila, who's going to school with the hope of becoming an architect.

There were several protests of the lawsuit when it was filed by Horne in 2013, including a demonstration of young people who set fire to copies of their high school diplomas outside the AG's office, and another demonstration in the middle of a sit-down meeting with Horne.

Abril Gallardo, a student who joined Gallego in his call today to end the lawsuit, said she graduated in 2009 from Trevor G. Browne High School, and is still trying to earn her degree, which has been drawn out due to financial difficulty. Her first semester after high school, she could only afford to enroll in one class at Maricopa County Community College, but was eventually able to go full-time four years later, when she earned her DACA status.

"Why is [Brnovich] using our tax money, why is he using my tax money, to attack me and hold me back from getting a higher education?" Gallardo said. "It's not fair, and I ask him to drop this unfair lawsuit."

Arizona Congressmen Raul Grijalva and Ann Kirkpatrick also joined Gallego in sending a letter to Brnovich, asking for him to drop the lawsuit. Notably absent from that call is Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, the state's only other Democratic member of Congress.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley