Raleigh, N.C. — Students who arrived in the United States illegally cannot get in-state tuition in North Carolina community colleges or universities, even if they have been granted "deferred action" status by the federal government, according to a letter from the North Carolina Department of Justice released Thursday.
Last summer, the federal government announced that certain individuals who came to the United States illegally when they were small children would be able to work toward citizenship. To qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, participants must be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and meet other qualifications.
Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, wrote to Attorney General Roy Cooper asking if those students would qualify for in-state tuition benefits, particularly if they had graduated from North Carolina high schools. In-state tuition is thousands of dollars cheaper per year than tuition charged to students from other states.
Replying to Brandon's letter, special deputy attorneys general Alexander Peters and Kimberly Potter wrote that state law prohibits extending in-state benefits to DACA students.
"We agree with University and Community College attorneys that North Carolina law does not provide for in-state tuition for these students. In order for students who have been granted DACA status to be eligible for the benefit of in-state tuition, the North Carolina General Assembly would have to amend (North Carolina state law) to make an exception for such individuals, change the residency requirements, or otherwise provide by law that individuals with DACA classification are, under such circumstances as may be set by statute, eligible for in-state tuition," Peters and Potter wrote.
The N.C. Dream Team, a group of undocumented young adults pushing for changes in state and federal policy, responded to the letter by lashing out at Cooper, saying that he has "thrown immigrant students under the bus."