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Arizona voters approve in-state tuition for undocumented students

Advocates say the outcome is a sign of a broad bipartisan consensus on immigration policies

Election workers open mail in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on Nov. 11 in Phoenix.
Election workers open mail in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on Nov. 11 in Phoenix. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Arizona voters narrowly approved a ballot measure to allow undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition, a victory for advocates who will press for broader relief for immigrants in Congress during the remaining weeks of the year.

Arizona Proposition 308 will allow noncitizen students to receive the reduced tuition rates if they attended school in Arizona for at least two years and graduated from a public school, private school or home school in the state.

The proposition repeals an earlier measure, approved in 2006, that barred noncitizens from receiving financial aid or in-state tuition rates.

Democrats as well as a “significant number” of independents and Republicans changed the 2006 law “to treat immigrants brought to the United States as children with dignity and humanity,” Bob Worsley, a former Republican state senator in Arizona who campaigned for the proposition, told reporters Monday.

When The Associated Press called the race Monday night, “yes” votes on the proposition had earned just over 51 percent of the vote, roughly 60,000 more than “no” votes.

Political organizers and advocates who campaigned for Proposition 308 called its success a sign of voters’ openness to immigration relief in a state where Republicans have become increasingly concerned about illegal border crossings.

They also plan to parlay their momentum into a broader push on Capitol Hill for immigration policy changes. Democrats have suggested they will prioritize relief for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, whose status is threatened by court challenges, during the lame-duck session.

The House in early 2021 passed legislation to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, undocumented farmworkers, temporary protected status holders and other groups. But those bills have foundered in the Senate amid GOP lawmakers’ concerns about high border crossings.

“What this shows is that there is a broad bipartisan consensus for immigration solutions,” Rebecca Shi, executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, told reporters on Monday. “It is time for Congress to act for Dreamers and farmworkers before the end of the year.”

Arizona joins 22 other states and Washington, D.C., in allowing some undocumented immigrants to access in-state tuition.

The ballot measure was one of a handful of opportunities this midterm election cycle for voters to weigh in directly on immigration. Massachusetts voters approved a measure allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

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