Nearly 300 undocumented students and “dreamers” who have lived in the United States for years gathered Thursday at the Arizona Capitol to ask legislative representatives and senators to allow them access to reduced college tuition.
The students, who came from 30 Arizona schools, community colleges and universities, met with 30 state leaders in this initiative organized by Aliento, an organization that supports migrants and students covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Jose Patino, director of Education and Policy with Breath, told Efe that the meetings aimed to explain to public representatives the need to allow all Arizona high school graduates, regardless of their immigration status, to be eligible for in-state tuition and merit-based scholarships.
“It’s very difficult for them to afford more expensive tuition. I managed to finish my studies in mechanical engineering at Arizona State University (ASU), but with private scholarships and paying three times more than regular students,” explained Patino, who is also a “dreamer”.
Angel Palazuelos arrived fleeing poverty in Mexico with his family when he was six years old and assured Efe on Thursday that Arizona is “his home” and where he wants to pursue his higher education.
“They told me that if I did everything right, if I got the best grades, if I stood out in the community everything would be possible, but today I see the injustice of not being able to get money to go to college,” said the 18-year-old.
Palazuelos is a senior in high school and his dream is to study mechanical engineering, and even though he won a very prestigious scholarship that is only given to one student per state, he cannot make it valid because he lives in Arizona.
“More than 12 thousand students applied for that scholarship, that means I can go to any university outside the state, but sadly not in Arizona because of the laws that prevent students from obtaining government grants,” he said.
In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s universities cannot give reduced tuition to young people hosted by DACA.
The justices unanimously upheld an Arizona Court of Appeals decision that said existing federal and state laws do not allow in-state tuition rates for dreamers.
“I am here with 300 other young people because it is very important for us to have access to affordable tuition, undocumented students and under the DACA program are paying much higher tuition and it is not fair,” Denise Garcia, 17, told Efe.
Although Garcia is a citizen and has access to in-state tuition and scholarships, she has a sister who is a “dreamer,” and it is unfair that two people with the same abilities should have to pay differently for legal status.