Some ASU students are going door-to-door to convince Tempe residents to vote down a ballot measure they say would deny talented students a college education because their parents brought them to the country illegally as children.
Proposition 300, up for a vote Nov. 7, would prevent students who are in the United States illegally from receiving in-state tuition at Arizona universities and community colleges.
“We want to make people realize this will not address the immigration issue,” said Joaquin Rios, 20, a junior at Arizona State University who recently canvassed houses. “Cutting off access to higher education never is going to solve any problems.”
Sen. Dean Martin, RPhoenix, sponsored the ballot initiative, which he says would ensure precious tax dollars are saved for legal residents.
“We have a lot of costs for illegal immigration that the state has to bear and we’ve only got so much money to go around,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re putting those who follow the law first.”
The measure would require state agencies to confirm legal status when
processing applications to community colleges, universities and state-funded childcare for low-income parents.
Martin says the ballot initiative is necessary to close remaining loopholes left from Proposition 200, passed by voters in 2004, which was supposed to stop state benefits for illegal immigrants.
“This won’t be denying them services. We’re just not going to subsidize it,” he said. “Right now, we are giving (illegal immigrants) a subsidy for college education that we won’t even give to U.S. citizens from a different state.”
Martin said he did not know how many illegal immigrants might use these programs because the state agencies currently do not keep track of applicants’ legal status.
Currently, 10 states have passed legislation to allow illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition, including neighboring California, New Mexico and Utah, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Other states either prohibit it or — like Arizona — do not investigate to see if applicants are in the country illegally.
Mesa resident Carl Clark said he welcomes the proposed change in law.
“It is very unfair to give illegal aliens in-state tuition because they are not citizens of this country,” he said. “When their parents brought them to the U.S. they knew that they were breaking our laws when they crossed the border. So what makes them think they have rights the same as a citizen?”
But opponents of the measure say it will stop illegal immigrants from attending college at all.
“The measure of investigating every single student’s immigration status is going to have a chilling effect on who applies,” said Ed Hermes, student representative on the Arizona Board of Regents.
The high cost of paying out-of-state tuition would also keep most illegal immigrants out, he said, adversely affecting a state that needs more nurses, teachers and engineers.
At ASU, in-state tuition costs $4,686, while out-ofstate students pay $15, 845. The price disparity in community college tuition is even more pronounced, said Dick White, vice president of the Valley Interfaith Project.
“It’s a shortsighted attempt,” White said. “What are we asking (the students) to do? Will they be on the street, going into gangs if they don’t have any other future? We don’t want an education underclass.”