Yesterday was a good day for Dario Andrade Mendoza. His mom's deportation order was removed, and when the family returned home after court, they heard news that the Arizona Board of Regents had granted DREAMers in-state tuition
at the three universities.
Both issues took many years to overcome.
"I haven't quite processed it, yet," he says.
Andrade Mendonza graduated from Pima Community College
—where DACA recipients have been paying in-state tuition since 2013—last May, with plans to transfer to the UA's College of Engineering. He applied and was accepted as an honors student (he's gotten outstanding grades since high school). The problem was that, at the time, DREAMers were considered nonresidents and had to pay the about $30,000 out-of-state tuition.
ABOR's historic decision came merely two days after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge
ruled that students in the DACA program, which grants them a work permit, are lawfully in the country and therefore qualify for in-state college tuition. The decision settled a two-year-old lawsuit former attorney general Tom Horne filed against the Maricopa County Community College District for granting DREAMers resident rates. Horne argued the district violated Prop 300, approved by voters in 2006, which says non U.S.citizens who aren't legal residents don't qualify for in-state or state financial aid.
In a statement, ABOR said they are committed to affordable access to higher education for all eligible students, and that the judge's ruling included DACA recipients in the "eligible students" group.
“We know that this decision is a victory. However, we know that it will only affect those individuals that have been granted DACA. We will continue to fight for access to education for all students, including undocumented students seeking a higher education or a GED," said Manuel Natera, DACA Coordinator with Scholarships A-Z
For lack of state funding, tuition at the universities continues to rise. Most students rely on loans, but DACA recipients don't qualify for that, so they have to figure out how to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket. Andrade Mendoza, who is also the community outreach director of Scholarships A-Z, says now they will push for financial aid, and other crutches that help pay for higher education, to become inclusive of DREAMers and undocumented students.
In Andrade Mendoza's case, he's been saving up for the past three, four years and is planning to re-enroll at the engineer college again to start in the fall. He says he may have enough to at least start off his junior year of college.
U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva issued this happy statement yesterday:
“Not once, but twice this week, our state has risen above the voices of intolerance to recognize that DACA students are every bit as much a part of Arizona as anyone else. This is their home; they are our neighbors; and they deserve the same in-state tuition that every other one of our neighbors is welcome to.
This is more than a victory for immigrant communities. This is a triumph of common sense. Five years after SB 1070 stagnated our economy, soiled our state’s good name, and tore at the social fabric of our society, we are proving without the shadow of a doubt that we have turned the page. DACA students who earn their education here are better prepared to make their living here, contributing to our economy, creating jobs and expanding economic opportunities. In-state tuition will place higher education within reach for more DACA students, and we are all better off as a result.
I couldn’t be more proud to see our state blazing a new path on the right side of history today.”