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GOP senator wants to cancel 2022 vote on in-state tuition for Dreamers because GOP senators were in the minority

By: - November 18, 2021 10:43 am
jordi santos

Jordi Santos, 18, smiles after receiving his high school diploma during North High School’s commencement ceremony on May 22, 2019. Santos is among the 2,000 students without immigration status that graduate from high school every year in Arizona. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror

A Republican lawmaker says voters shouldn’t get to weigh in on a ballot measure next year that would repeal a state law prohibiting undocumented students from accessing in-state tuition at public universities and community colleges because not enough Republicans supported the proposal.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita on Tuesday introduced a proposal to reverse the passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044, which a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers sent to the ballot earlier this year. The passage was celebrated as an achievement of years-long advocacy to repeal a 2006 voter-approved law that prevents the estimated 2,000 undocumented students who graduate Arizona high schools every year from accessing affordable secondary education at state university and community colleges.

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Ugenti-Rita told the Arizona Mirror that Senate President Karen Fann was wrong to allow SCR1044 to be voted on because most GOP senators opposed it.

“It’s odd to me that (Fann) would put up a bill that she voted against, with only three Republicans voting for it,” the Scottsdale Republican said. “President Fann put something on the floor that the overwhelming amount of Republicans opposed, and she did it anyway.”

The measure cleared the Senate with 17 votes, including three Republicans: Sen. Paul Boyer, the Glendale Republican who sponsored the legislation, Sens. Tyler Pace and TJ Shope. It won approval in the House on a 33-27 vote, with four Republicans joining the Democrats.

While the measure to repeal the in-state tuition ban for undocumented students in Arizona didn’t have broad support among Republicans in the legislature, past polling has shown that 1 in 3 Republican voters support it. 

SCR1044 will ask Arizona voters to decide whether all students who attend an Arizona high school for two years and who graduate to be eligible for in-state tuition. It will also exempt postsecondary education from the definition of a state or local public benefit, which those without lawful immigration status can’t currently access. The changes can only happen through a ballot measure because the 2006 law was originally approved by voters.

Reyna Montoya, who has led the advocacy for years to repeal the ban on in-state tuition from undocumented state residents, said there’s a lot of support for the measure. She said she’s hopeful Ugenti Rita won’t succeed in reversing the ballot referral.

“It’s really unfortunate that she’s going to be using some of her time to try to repeal this because we got bipartisan support,” Montoya said. “We’re going to let voters decide.”

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.

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