Arizona’s Misguided Campaign Against Latino Immigrants Suffers Yet Another Defeat

PHOENIX, AZ - Late Tuesday, Judge Arthur T. Anderson of the Superior Court of Arizona ruled that students granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are eligible for in-state tuition at the Maricopa County Community College District. As part of its campaign against immigrants and DACA recipients, the State of Arizona sued one of its own community college districts to prevent it from offering in-state tuition to DACA recipients.

MALDEF intervened on behalf of students to represent their interests, and defended this suit together with the Maricopa County Community College District. The Court ruled that the State was misreading its own laws, and granted judgment against Arizona. This is the first ruling interpreting Arizona’s in-state tuition law, and it will likely have statewide repercussions for DACA recipients. In this suit, MALDEF successfully argued that both state and federal law prevented Arizona from denying in-state tuition to DACA recipients attending the Maricopa County Community Colleges. This decision will allow students to continue receiving the existing in-state tuition rate.

"The court confirmed that the State of Arizona cannot circumvent the federal rights conferred on DACA students," stated Martha L. Gomez, MALDEF Staff Attorney. "This victory is crucial because it will educate and propel young dreamers to be the bright future of Arizona."

The judge ruled that individuals who are "lawfully present" in the country are not excluded from state "resident education benefits" by federal law. The ruling explains that federal law, not state law, determines who is lawfully present in the country. Under federal law, DACA recipients are lawfully present because deferred action is a period of stay authorized by the U.S. government.

"Yet another court has blocked Arizona’s wasteful, anti-immigrant acts," stated Victor Viramontes, MALDEF National Senior Counsel. "Now, DACA students can go to college and pay in-state tuition rates, a crucial victory for all of the residents of Arizona, who will all benefit from a more highly educated work force."

MALDEF, together with the Ortega Law Firm and Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, PLC, originally intervened on behalf of students in November 2013. MALDEF also countersued the State on behalf of students. Because of yesterday’s ruling, DACA students will be treated equally with all other students with authorized presence, and they will be allowed to attend the Maricopa Community Colleges paying an in-state tuition rate.

The Superior Court of Arizona's order in this case is available here.

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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