Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has come out in support of reduced tuition rates for students who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, but have protected legal status through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“We’ve had a long-held tradition in this country that children shouldn’t have to pay for the decisions of their parents,” Ducey told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Monday. “That’s what I’d like to see. I’d like to see these kids have an opportunity.”
DACA students now pay $16,500 per year to attend Arizona state universities and colleges. The discounted rate, established by the Arizona Board of Regents in August, is 150% of the $11,000 rate for in-state students, but less than the $30,000 out-of-state rate.
Ducey’s support for DACA students signals a break from Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who has sided with President Trump’s efforts to end the program.
Brnovich and Republican attorneys general from 11 other states issued a legal brief this month, saying that former President Barack Obama did not have the legal authority to create the DACA program in 2012.
If the program were ended, the future of the more than 25,000 DACA recipients in Arizona would be in jeopardy. The Supreme Court is set to hear challenges to lower court rulings that have upheld the program’s legality in November.
Republican attacks on DACA come despite the fact that poll after poll after poll has shown that a majority of Americans, including most Republicans, support a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.
Ducey said that he doesn’t think “we should ever pull the rug out from underneath anyone,” but also previously spent years fighting to avoid issuing driver’s licenses to DACA recipients.
He’s not the only Arizona Republican to have taken conflicting viewpoints on the program.
In May 2018, current Senator and then-Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) cosponsored a bill offering a pathway to citizenship for undocumented Dreamers. But in an election year about face, McSally quickly pulled her name from the bill and signed on as a cosponsor of another bill that would have reduced legal immigration and further cracked down on migrant children.
Less than two weeks later, during a House hearing on immigration, McSally suggested without evidence that unaccompanied children who come to the United States are likely to become MS-13 gang members. McSally’s office even went so far as to remove a video from YouTube that showed her defending DACA.
While McSally’s blatant shift to the right may have helped her survive a primary challenge from Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, she ultimately lost her Senate race to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.
McSally has since been largely quiet on DACA, save for a May 2019 statement in which she told the Arizona Republic that it’s up to Congress to find a legislative solution for DACA recipients.
Other Arizona Republicans have been more blunt in their assessment of the program.
Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) told the Arizona Republic that “President Obama’s use of executive action in 2012 to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unconstitutional. It is up to Congress to create immigration laws.”
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), meanwhile, has been far more harsh. Gosar, who has long opposed the program, has taken to Facebook to post fear-mongering statuses about DACA recipients and even called for Dreamers to be arrested.
This makes Ducey something of an outlier amongst the Arizona GOP, and while he’s earned some praise for expressing support for DACA students, Dreamers remain far more concerned about the Republican party’s ongoing attempts to repeal the program.
Abril Gallardo, a 28-year-old Dreamer who attends Phoenix College and was brought to the U.S. when she was 11 years old, told the Arizona Republic that the uncertainty surrounding DACA has forced her to put her life on hold.
“Waiting for the decision, the uncertainty that this brings to our lives … it’s real,” she said. “It impacts our lives. Many immigrant youth who just graduated from high school are getting ready to go to college.”
Some of those students may now pay less for college than they did a year ago, but due to years of Republican attempts to end DACA, they still don’t know if they have a future in this country.