Arizona Supreme Court In-State Tuition Decision: A Setback for ‘Dreamers’

Arizona immigration attorneyThousands of people in Arizona will have to pay more money next year to attend state colleges and universities, according to a decision by the Arizona Supreme Court.

For the more than 2,400 students covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the decision means tuition costs could soar by 300 percent, according to CNN. The finding also has created anxiety and stress for thousands of people who are hoping to improve their lives through education and pursue the American dream.

As attorneys who advocate for immigrants, we know that the unanimous decision will create a significant hardship. Some of the students, or “Dreamers” as recipients of DACA are known, may have to drop out of college.

Courthouse News Service reported that the justices on April 9 upheld a finding by the Arizona Court of Appeals that the Dreamers should pay out-of-state tuition because they do not have permanent legal status.

A May 20 Associated Press report in revealed some of the personal stories of individuals who were affected by this decision. One student with the goal of becoming a teacher was working his way through college. David Montenegro was covered by DACA and paid in-state tuition rates. The Supreme Court decision has him worried.

“It’s upsetting to know there are people out there trying to make our lives impossible,” Montenegro said in the AP report.

DACA recipients feel anxious in wake of decision

Other DACA recipients who were enrolled in one of Arizona’s state colleges or university expressed similar anxiety. They were considering leaving the state to find better opportunities, according to

At least 20 states allow DACA recipients to pay in-state tuition, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

President Obama’s executive order in 2012 created DACA, which protects young immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. With DACA status, the immigrants would not be deported and would have access to work permits.

States have a right to allow DACA recipients to qualify for in-state tuition, but the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court wrote in his decision that Arizona has not done so. He noted that voters in Arizona passed a ballot measure denying public benefits to people without legal immigration status.

According to, the legal battle is not over yet. Community colleges can appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, because Arizona justices relied on federal law.

If you are a DACA recipient who needs help with a legal issue, we want to hear from you. Don’t hesitate to contact Brown, Naegle, Crider & Jensen LLC. We know how stressful life can be when you are navigating immigration matters. Contact us today to find out how we can assist.

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