It’s alive: Tuition bill covering dreamers comes back

By: - March 28, 2019 5:01 pm

Arizona State University graduates in December 2010. Photo by Kevin Dooley | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Sen. Heather Carter has put back in play her proposal to create a new tuition rate the state’s universities and community colleges. While the proposal makes no mention of immigraiton status, it would cover a group known as dreamers that for years has pushed, in the courts and on the streets, for in-state tuition.

Carter, R-Cave Creek, introduced and advanced a strike-everything amendment to a proposal from Rep. Michelle Udall in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday.

Carter’s proposal says students who graduate from an Arizona high school (or were homeschooled according to state standards) are eligible for the new tuition rate, as long as they meet the institution’s academic requirements. The Arizona Board of Regents and community colleges would decide the new tuition cost.

Proponents of Carter’s idea stressed the economic benefits of the proposal, while those in opposition said it goes against state law and incentivizes illegal immigration.

The committee approved the bill with bipartisan votes. Carter and Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, were joined by the three Democrats on the panel to support the amended House Bill 2186.

Republican Sens. Sylvia Allen, Rick Gray and Tyler Pace voted against the proposal. Gray and Pace said they believe the bill violates an Arizona law that barrs those without legal immigration status from receiving in-state tuition.

Carter stressed her proposal is not about in-state tuition.

Udall, a Mesa Republican, said she saw the bill as a choice — a choice between educated or uneducated youth, and a choice between giving people a path to self-sufficiency “at no cost to the state” or not.

Carter’s original bill, Senate Bill 1217, passed in the Senate over a month ago on an 18-12 vote, with five Republican votes in favor. House Speaker Rusty Bowers killed the proposal.

HB2186 now goes to the Rules Committee. When SB1217 was considered last month by that committee, a Senate lawyer said the bill is constitutional because it creates a separate tuition rate. If HB2186 clears the Senate, it would still need Bowers to schedule it for a full vote in his chamber.

Opponents say bill is deceptive   

Several people spoke Thursday in opposition to the bill. They chastised Carter and called her amendment “sneaky,” “deceptive” and against a voter-approved law.

Tim Rafferty said he testified on behalf of the more than 1 million voters who supported Proposition 300 in 2006.  

“This measure will indirectly support illegal immigration,” Rafferty said.

Others echoed his views.

“This is a sneaky way to try to give illegal immigrants an in-state tuition,” said Mary Ann Mendoza. Mendoza is an outspoken supporter of tighter immigration laws and border security. Her son, Brandon Mendoza, was a Mesa Police officer killed by a wrong-way driver. Mendoza believes the man who fatally collided with her son should have been deported decades before.

Mendoza wore a white T-shirt with her son’s face printed on it. She said that she thinks Carter’s proposal would “overburden” the state’s universities.

“Stop trying to pull this sneaky stuff off,” Mendoza said.

Vince Anselmo, who donned a black hat with “Trump 2020” in white type, added, “This is nothing more than a cheap stunt designed to circumvent established state law.”   

Jennifer Harrison, who is the founder of the group AZ Patriots and was barred from the House of Representatives earlier this year, said the proposal would aggravate current immigration issues.

“We have a crisis on our border, and now we are trying to pass legislation to incentivize more people to come to this country illegally, and go around the will of the voters?” she said.  

Carter: rate will not be subsidized by state

Carter said her proposal doesn’t go against Prop. 300, which said that only people lawfully present in the United States can be classified as an in-state student for higher education tuition. She said the new tuition rate would not be subsidized by state dollars.

“Nobody is receiving anything for free,” Carter said. “That payment cannot come from state dollars, that is why the rate must be greater than in- state tuition.”

Her goal, she said, is to provide an educational path for students who do “everything we’ve asked them to do: go to school, work hard, get good grades, stay out of trouble.”

The legislation has broad support from business groups.

Brophy McGee said poverty is a common theme in the committee.

“Each and every meeting, we deal with how we can help the most vulnerable among us,” she said.

The bill advances economic development, Brophy McGee said.

“Education is the best economic policy there is,” she said. “In Arizona today we have more jobs than people to fill them. If we are going to continue to grow our economy, we need skilled workers.”

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