DACA Supporters|Andrea Jaramillo via Cronkite News DACA Supporters|Andrea Jaramillo via Cronkite News

DACA recipients’ fight to be eligible for in-state tuition has a new, unlikely leader – a Republican lawmaker from Prescott. 

Arizona’s recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program have been fighting for years to pay in-state tuition for college. The issue is seeing renewed momentum after an unexpected supporter emerged–Republican, Rep. Noel Campbell of Prescott. 

Campbell told the Arizona Capitol Times that while he supports border security, he doesn’t think it makes sense for people who have lived most of their lives in the U.S. to face higher costs for education. 

“They’re going to be here and we’re not going to deport them,” the lawmaker told the newspaper. “They’re good kids and they want to continue their education.”

Campbell’s resolution, HCR 2048, would allow anyone who is eligible for DACA to pay the in-state rate. Those requirements include having arrived to the U.S. under the age of 16 and having no felonies or significant misdemeanors. 

The resolution has bipartisan support, with seven Democratic co-sponsors and one Republican: Rep. Tony Rivero of Peoria. Campbell told the Arizona Capitol Times that he expected to face opposition to the bill from his own party. 

The Legal Fight

Arizona is home to more than 25,000 DACA recipients. DACA students had been paying in-state tuition until the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that while they had “lawful status,” they didn’t technically meet the requirement of having “legal status.” 

The 2018 Arizona Supreme Court ruling also meant Dreamers couldn’t qualify for state financial aid. Campbell’s bill doesn’t change that–he said they’d still have to find a way to pay for it themselves. 

The Arizona Board of Regents responded to the ruling by creating a third tier of tuition for Dreamers that is 150% higher than in-state rates but lower than out-of-state. That special rate was later extended to students who are living in the country illegally but graduated from an Arizona high school. 

That rate was still too high for many, amounting to thousands of dollars more than other students were paying. For example, Arizona State University’s in-state tuition of $10,710 would cost Dreamers $16,065 for the same education. 

Immigration advocates who have tried to make Dreamers eligible for in-state tuition face a challenge from Proposition 300, a measure passed in 2006 that bars students living in the state illegally from qualifying for in-state tuition rates. 

Campbell said he doesn’t think Prop 300 renders his resolution dead on arrival. The proposition was approved before DACA began, so the measure should be reconsidered, he told the Arizona Capitol Times. 

The existence of DACA itself has been up in the air since President Donald Trump announced his intentions to end the program in 2017. The issue made its way through the judicial system, with the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments on it in November 2019. The court is expected to issue a ruling early this year.

Where The Resolution Stands 

Currently, HCR 2048 has yet to be assigned to a committee. Campbell will have to convince House Speaker Rusty Bowers, also a Republican, to allow it to move forward before eventually having to persuade other GOP members to vote for it. Bowers told the Arizona Capitol Times last week he had not yet reviewed the measure. 

Campbell is staying hopeful, however.

“I told my caucus that we, as Republicans, need to be out front, be proactive, and let the Hispanic community know that we value them and we want them to become members of our party,” he told the newspaper. “And I think it’s a winning argument.”