RICHMOND— Today, the Senate Education and Health Committee failed to pass bills that would give Virginia’s undocumented students in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities. SB237 and SB810, sponsored by Sen. David Marsden, were killed along party lines in the committee. The Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (VACIR) is dismayed by the news.
“We’re disappointed that the state government doesn’t do more to help undocumented students in Virginia. The General Assembly keeps deferring back to the federal government to help undocumented students, but the state can give us opportunities for education and investment in the Commonwealth,” said Yanet Amado of the Virginia Intercollegiate Immigrant Alliance, a member organization of VACIR.
For many undocumented immigrants, access to higher education is key to earning wages and pursuing opportunities. Allowing undocumented students, also known as DREAMers, to apply for in-state tuition rates makes Virginia a more just and inclusive Commonwealth, provides economic opportunity to young people, contributes to workforce development, helps universities save money and overall strengthens the Commonwealth’s institutions of higher learning. Undocumented students are just as Virginian as any other student.
According to The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, over 12,000 young immigrants in Virginia were able to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, thus receiving protection from deportation, a work permit, and opportunity to apply for a social security number. Of the 12,000 DACA recipients in Virginia, more than 1,200 have been able to enroll into Virginia’s institutions of higher education and apply for in-state tuition as a result of the 2014 decision by Attorney General Mark Herring to grant in-state tuition to DACA recipients.