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Arizona regents will continue in-state tuition for eligible immigrants

Students celebrate graduation at Arizona State University's 2013 Hispanic Convocation. (Arizona State University Photo)

PHOENIX — The board of regents that oversees public universities in Arizona said it would continue to offer in-state tuition for students who have deferred deportation status.

The board was doing so despite threats of a lawsuit from state Attorney General Mark Bronovich.

Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein sent a letter to Brnovich’s office pointing out cutting off in-state tuition for students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would have “a devastating impact on hundreds of innocent young people.”

The letter, dated Aug. 10, also read, “Tuition setting is one of the most important duties of the board and one that the Regents take quite seriously.”

The board sent the letter after the state Court of Appeals overturned a 2015 decision by a lower-court judge. The court ruled DACA recipients were considered legally present in the U.S. under federal immigration law and qualified for state benefits.

The Maricopa County Community Colleges District board said it will ask the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn the latest ruling.

If the state Supreme Court reversed the decision and allowed in-state tuition rates at the community college, it would mean treating one set of DACA students differently from another, Klein said.

“Students who have chosen to attend an Arizona public university will be denied in-state tuition while their community college counterparts are not,” she wrote.

The Board of Regents, which oversees three public universities and other colleges, had voted soon after the decision to allow in-state costs to stand while the issue remains under court review.

The attorney general’s office told Klein in its own letter in July that it demanded an explanation of how the board thought its position wasn’t violating Arizona law. The office also threatened to take potential legal action.

In a statement to the Associated Press Thursday, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the board’s response was disappointing because it received a policy argument instead of a legal analysis.

“While we should all welcome a broader conversation about making college more affordable for everyone, tuition policies must be consistent with the law and respect Arizona voters. We’re evaluating all options,” the statement said.

The Trump administration has stepped up immigration enforcement but said it hadn’t decided the fate of former President Barack Obama’s DACA program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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