Immigrant Students Discuss Living in Tucson
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Immigrant Students Discuss Living in Tucson

More than 23,000 DACA reside in Arizona, having to follow strict guidelines in order to continue being eligible for Deferred Action.

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Immigrant Students Discuss Living in Tucson
Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star 2012

Data from the Migration Policy Institute shows that Pima County is home to 29,000 undocumented immigrants, 86 percent of them originating from Mexico. The Migration Policy Institute is a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.

As of March 2020, there are about 643,560 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in the United States.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DACA allows for undocumented individuals who arrived in the United States when they were children and who meet several other requirements to request deferred action for two years. DACA has to be renewed every two years and defers the individual from being removed from the country for that period of time.

In order to qualify for DACA, you have to be at least 15 years old, currently enrolled in or graduate from high school, be active in the military or an honorably discharged veteran. Recipients become immediately ineligible to renew their status once being convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.

In the state of Arizona, there are about 23,990 DACA recipients.

A DACA recipient from Tucson who asked to not be named says that President Donald Trump changed the renewal period from two years to only one year. DACA recipients now have to pay $500 every year in order to renew their status.

This DACA student is currently attending a private university because they are ineligible for in-state tuition and scholarships for Arizona residents at public universities in the state.

"Here, in Arizona, they have a proposition called Prop 300, which restricts us from getting in-state tuition. We pay around $18,000 a semester. That's why most DACA students or undocumented students attend either community colleges first or private universities."

Ian, an undocumented student at Pima Community College, says that he also pays more tuition than documented Arizona residents. "Let's say someone is paying $500, I will be paying $750 instead of the $500."

Both students were brought to the United States when they were less than a year old, grew up in Tucson, and graduated from Pueblo High School.

When asked about the general attitude towards undocumented students at Pueblo, Ian said, "There were always teachers that were helpful, that were kind, that knew about our situations and they always tried to help us out in some certain ways."

Adelita Grijalva, a member of the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, says that there is no way to know how many undocumented students attend TUSD since it is illegal to ask a student if they're documented. There are no programs at TUSD that specifically help undocumented students -- their programs are available to all of their students, regardless of status.

"We are a public education facility, which means we are open to every child. Every school-aged child has a free education. So we don't ask."

Grijalva used the example of a student reaching out to their school counselor and telling them that their family is homeless. According to Grijalva, in that situation, the district would help regardless of the student's legal status.

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