The Arizona Board of Regents heard from recipients and supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at a quarterly board meeting at Northern Arizona University on Thursday.
DACA is a policy developed by the Department of Homeland Security in order to decrease deportations of individuals who arrived in the U.S. illegally before the age of 16. It pertains to individuals seeking education or who are involved in military service, giving them a chance to work and go to school without accruing unlawful presence.
DACA does not offer a path to permanent residence in the U.S. Individuals who have received DACA are charged nonresident tuition in Arizona’s public universities.
At the beginning of the meeting, audience members were allowed to address the board directly. One of the audience members, Dario Andrade, addressed the regents about the struggles facing Arizona students who receive benefits from DACA, also referred to as DREAMers in reference to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, otherwise known as the DREAM Act.
“I would strongly like to encourage the board to consider giving DACA students, such as myself, affordable tuition here in the state schools,” Andrade said.
Andrade said that he was born in Sonora, Mexico, but has lived in Arizona for 10 years and sees it as his home. He said that without lowered tuition, DACA students will be forced to leave their homes, their families and the state in order to find an education.
Thirteen other DACA students stood behind Andrade in support. He said that all of them had been accepted into all three of Arizona’s public universities, but could not attend with current tuition rates.
German Cadenas, an Arizona State University Graduate and Professional Student Association President, also spoke on behalf of DACA students. He asked the board to consider changing policies at Arizona’s public universities, which currently charge DACA students out-of-state tuition. He said without a change, DACA students will be forced to attend private universities or leave the state.
“[DREAMers] are ready to finish their investment and move their state forward into the future,” Cadenas said. “It doesn’t make economic sense for us to lose this investment at this point.”
Viviana Vasquez, an elementary education student at Phoenix College, spoke about her struggle to get an education as a DREAMer. She said she graduated at the top of her class in high school and was accepted into two public universities, but could not afford the high tuition costs.
Vasquez is completing an associates at Phoenix College and said she hopes the regents consider making changes to their policies so she could attend one of Arizona’s universities.
Though the board of regents abstained from making comments regarding any audience member’s statement during the call to the audience, they thanked Andrade and Cadenas for their statements.