Undocumented Arizonans may get a break on tuition, as the bill sponsored by Sen. Paul Boyer (R-Glendale/North Phoenix) Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 could soon be approved.
This would give undocumented students in-state tuition benefits for the first time since 2006, when Proposition 300 was approved by voters, stripping away such benefits from thousands of young undocumented students.
And while these students are one step closer to this victory, the fight is not over yet. If the resolution passes the legislative process, the bill will then be put on the next general election ballot and the last word will be given to Arizona voters.
A West Valley native who teaches English and history, Boyer explained why this is such an important issue for him.
“Here they are at no fault of their own,” he said. “The United States is all they know. The reality is that life is difficult for them if they can’t get a college degree. My heart goes out to them, and I just want to help them as best I can.”
One of these students is 16-year-old Citlalli Ojeda. She is a junior at Pan-American Charter High School in Maryvale and a communications intern at Aliento, a DACA community organization. With college just around the corner, she constantly thinks about her future and how the passing of this bill could change her life.
“I never give myself the hope of having a dream college. I didn’t really let myself do that, since money is a very big playing factor in going to school in the future. If this all does pass, then I’d be able to have the illusion that most kids my age do.”
For students like Ojeda, this could be a great opportunity to receive a quality education that was not possible for some in the past. A source who asked to remain anonymous said neither he nor his parents had the funds for a college education, so he decided to focus his efforts on finding a job instead.
Aliento is one of the organizations in the state that focuses on bringing awareness on issues regarding DACA and undocumented students. Jose Patiño, Aliento’s education and external affairs director, said they partner with many organizations, such as the Phoenix Union High School District, ASU, UA and GCU students.
He is trying to put efforts into raising awareness.
“There’s a lot of need,” Patiño said. “It’s so important that we keep investing in the community because they’re the future but they’re rapidly becoming the present.”
Ojeda expressed that she hopes people will become more aware of issues like SCR 1044.
“I would like to see more people advocating for it because it’s going to help a lot of people like me and it’s going to help other people that don’t really know what’s going on to find out and see if they can help out in ways that undocumented students can’t,” Ojeda said.
For his part, Boyer said he knows that many of his constituents probably don’t support his effort, but helping kids should be everyone’s goal, no matter who they are.
“Please, please reach out to these kids and hear their stories, because I think after you hear their stories and talk to them you might think differently.”