Maricopa County Community College District will allow in-state tuition for immigrant students who are granted federally issued work permits obtained by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- despite an order from Gov. Jan Brewer that such individuals be denied public benefits.
"This is one of the greatest days of our lives, because we have been fighting for our education and it is an important component of our advocacy for young immigrant's rights,” said Dulce Matuz, chairwoman of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, in a press release. “Also because we are taxpayers in Arizona and this is an acknowledgement of our monetary contributions. It is also great news for the future of our state, for the prosperity of Arizona, because we need a better educated workforce to be able to attract good employers for Arizona and create businesses.”
Employment authorization documents, more commonly known as work permits, have always been used to obtain instate tuition, said Tom Gariepy, MCCCD spokesman.
“Basically we are relying on a number of documents and one of them is federal work permits,” he said.
Following the announcement for DACA, a larger group of people were granted access to federal work permits.
But then Brewer issued an executive order Aug. 15 that people who received deferred action through DACA would not be eligible for state public benefits. So the community college district began looking into its policies, Gariepy said.
“We needed to study what she had to say,” he said.
To establish in-state tuition at MCCCD, students must be residents of Arizona for a year and live in Maricopa County for at least 50 days prior to the start of the semester they are enrolling. They must also show proof of citizenship, residency or lawful status.
An accepted document to meet that requirement is a “United States citizenship and immigration services employment authorization document or refugee travel document,” according to the district’s website.
“If the law changes and these documents are no longer valid, then we will change the way we treat those students,” Gariepy said, calling the issue hugely complicated.
However, until then, the largest community college district in the nation will be accepting work permits as part of its residency process, Gariepy said.
“To the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t happened yet where someone used (DACA) to get in-state tuition,” Gariepy said.
However, he said, they would not know during the registration process how a student obtained a work permit. They would only know that a student had one, he said.
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