On Monday, the Arizona House passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044. The resolution allows voters to decide if students who are in the country illegally but have attended for two years and graduated from an Arizona high school can be eligible for in-state college tuition.
SCR 1044 also exempts post-secondary education from the definition of a state or public benefit. Currently, Arizona residents who do not have legal immigration status do not qualify to receive those benefits.
Last week, Republican State Reps. Michelle Udall and Joel John forced a vote on the resolution by joining all House Democrats. Republicans Rep. David Cook and Rep. Joanne Osborne joined the group later and voted in favor of the matter. The move shifted power away from the Republican Caucus momentarily, but left a deep division.
Speaker Rusty Bowers expressed his disappointment in the tactic employed by Udall and John before casting his vote against the measure:
The measure will now go before the Arizona voters on a ballot in 2022.
The ballot initiative would repeal a 15-year-old ban on in-state tuition for undocumented high school graduates, including about 2,000 Dreamers per year. Voters created that ban in 2006 when they approved Proposition 300, which denies public benefits to those not in the country legally, including reduced cost tuition.
A bill originally disguised as a nature-loving resolution passed by the Senate was rewritten completely through an amendment to qualify illegal aliens for in-state tuition. The same wouldn’t apply to nonimmigrant aliens.
“Notwithstanding any other law, a student, other than a nonimmigrant alien as described in 8 United States Code Section 1101(a)(15) […] is eligible for in-state tuition at any university […],” reads the amendment. “Persons without lawful immigration status are eligible for in-state tuition […]”
State Representative Daniel Hernandez, Jr. (D-Tucson) introduced the amendment. The proposed change comes into play as the border crisis continues to surge. Rural communities at Arizona’s border are pleading with federal authorities for help, as the number of migrants have more than doubled since Biden took office.
Yuma Border Patrol Special Operations Supervisor Vincent Dulesky reported one week ago that they are seeing surges of up to 100 illegal aliens at a time crossing the border.
“We’ve gone from months where we were seeing twenty [illegal aliens] a day, and now we’re seeing upwards to 450 a day,” said Dulesky. “We’re seeing groups of ten, twenty, thirty, all the way up to 100 [illegal aliens] coming through at a time.”
Their border patrol also noted that the border crossings aren’t occurring in the areas where previous President Donald Trump built miles of 30-foot-tall steel walls. The main flood of crossings have occurred where the Normandy fencing exists. The X-shaped barricades only serve to stop vehicles, not so much the foot traffic.
The amendment to S.C.R. 1046 would also loosen residency restrictions for American citizens. Other non-resident students could also qualify for in-state intuition, as long as they have attended any public or private high school option or homeschool equivalent in the state for at least two years, or graduated from any of those schooling options while physically in the state.
However, the amendment was clear in drawing the distinction between non-Arizona resident students and illegal alien students. Illegal aliens wouldn’t be held to those standards.
The amendment was scheduled to be considered on Tuesday by the House committee on education.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to email@example.com.