Haziel Andrade is a DREAMer, one of millions of young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents. She grew up in Northern Virginia just like any other kid in the neighborhood — goofing around in the playground, attending public school and dreaming about her future. Unaware of her immigration status, she believed she would have the same opportunities as her peers. Everything changed when Haziel found out she was undocumented in her mid-teens.
As an undocumented Virginian, Haziel worried about how she would pay for college. Because she was undocumented, she would be charged tuition at three times the rate of an in-state resident.
Two years after President Obama created DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to give DREAMers relief from deportation and other benefits, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring decreed that DACA recipients would be eligible for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in the Commonwealth. More than a thousand undocumented students enrolled in Virginia’s universities after Herring’s decision.
Today, Haziel is a sophomore studying computer science at Virginia Commonwealth University. She’s very concerned about the future of DACA and in-state tuition for Virginia’s undocumented students—including her own ability to continue paying for tuition.
Several bills were introduced at the beginning of this legislative session to grant in-state tuition to undocumented students, including HB11, HB19, HB343, and HB1447. House Speaker Kirk Cox didn’t even give bills related to immigrant rights, including in-state tuition and driving privileges for undocumented Virginians a chance to be debated or voted on. Why? Because conservatives wanted to hide their opposition to these bills by not voting on them at all.
This is not acceptable. In a democracy, everyone has a voice. At the General Assembly, all bills deserve to have a hearing based upon their own merits. Speaker Cox’s actions are an insult to hundreds of thousands of hardworking Virginians who came to this country for better opportunities and contribute to their families and communities in many ways. Conservatives may be trying to hide their stances on issues, but thanks in part to projects like Eyes on Richmond, which focuses on shining a light to the actions of our elected officials, we all now have a better shot at seeing lawmakers in action—for better or for worse.