Students begin plans for a student immigrant center


Deferred Action Childhood Arrival and immigration matters continue to be at the forefront of all levels of government. 

The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear Arizona’s state government appeal to deny DACA recipients’ driver licenses. As a result, the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision stands, which ruled who has the right to be in the country isn’t an issue decided by states. 

President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter on March 21: “Department of Justice should have urged the Supreme Court to at least hear the Drivers License case on illegal immigrants in Arizona. I agree with @LouDobbs. Should have sought review.” 

On April 2, Arizona’s Supreme Court heard oral arguments for State v. Maricopa County College Board et al, which will decide if DACA recipients are eligible for in-state tuition. In 2006, Arizona voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 300, which states “who does not otherwise possess lawful immigration status in this country” may not receive in-state tuition. The verbiage “lawful immigration status” is critical to the case.

In a move supported by Pima, Maricopa Community College argues that the DACA gives students lawful status and makes them eligible for in-state tuition. The state of Arizona, however, contends those students are not lawfully present.     

The Arizona State Supreme Court’s justices were unanimous in their decision on April 9, that DACA recipients can’t receive in-state tuition the court will release their full opinion next month. 

In-state tuition for DACA is in part predicated on Pima Community College’s Open Admissions policy, where “open admissions and access to our programs and services for all who may benefit from them, regardless of where they are starting from.”   

Planning for the center


Pima has begun planning for the creation of an Immigrant and Refugee Student Resource Center. 

“But this is in the very early stages at this point,” said Governing Board member Mark Hanna.

As stated in the March 7 student report at the Governing Board meeting: “(Student) Senators are discussing a possible recommendation to incorporate an Immigrant Student Resource Center somewhere within Pima. Surveys are being pulled to find out if undocumented students identify as international students and if a resource center would help these students better identify themselves as Pima students.” 

“It would be patterned after the successful IRSC (Immigrant Student Resource Center at the University of Arizona),” Hanna said. 

First- and second-generation immigrant children make up one-quarter of all children in the United States, according to a 2014 report by Child Trends. They’re growing up and enrolling; students with an immigrant background make up nearly one-quarter of enrollment in community colleges, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

“This group of students find it extremely difficult to navigate not only college but also transferring the transfer process because scholarships and financial aid are very limited and some don’t even qualify for in-state tuition,” said West Campus Student Senator Ana Mendoza. “So how do they make sure that there is a pipeline from PCC to a four-year college?”

Lambert said the location and target audience for the center presently are being discussed. A funding source has not yet been identified. 

“Ideally there would be a full-time director and there would be students staffing, preferably directly impacted students,” Mendoza said.

Some of the goals for the proposed project include helping educate about policies that are especially present in Arizona. These include providing community resources for all, community building community and eventually internship opportunities. 

“It would also give them a place to discuss their common issues and work together to solve them,” Hanna said.

“It’s something that could eventually increase retention rates, increase enrollment rates and graduation rates of students,” Mendoza said. 

Board member Demion Clinco moved for an establishment of a study session on the matter. West and Downtown campuses and PCC’s 29th Street Coalition Center have been brought up as possible locations. 

“I think the main goal is just to establish a sense of community and resources for … all students in general,” Mendoza said. 

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