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Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring declared today that DREAMers—children of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. under the DREAM Act—are eligible for in-state tuition at colleges and universities, provided they meet the proper requirements.
In a letter sent to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Herring wrote that “If the Commonwealth is to remain competitive in a global economy, we must embrace a strategy that maximizes our talent pool and helps all Virginians reach their full potential.” He added that “these ‘DREAMers’ are already Virginians in some very important ways. In most cases they were raised here, they graduated from Virginia schools, and they have known no home but Virginia. They might be the valedictorian or salutatorian of their high school, but because they were brought here as children many years ago, an affordable education remains out of their reach. Instead of punishing and placing limits on these smart, talented, hard-working young people, Virginia should extend them an opportunity for an affordable education. It’s what the law requires, it makes economic sense for Virginia, and it’s the right thing to do.”
With today’s announcement, Virginia joins nineteen other states, including Maryland, who have enacted tuition equity laws for immigrants to have access to higher education more easily. According to a release, approximately 8,100 young Virginians have had Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications approved. If they’re admitted to a public college or university, and maintain their DACA status, they’ll be eligible to receive in-state tuition. The process for getting DACA status approved, however, can be quite rigorous.
Each applicant needs to prove their age of arrival, length of residency in the U.S. as well as indicate civic engagement through things like having no criminal record, enrollment in high school or a high school diploma or GED, or an honorable discharge from the U.S. Military.
“I am extremely pleased that our Attorney General has determined that DACA students can be eligible for in-state tuition,” Virginia Senator Donald McEachin, who carried a Senate bill for tuition equity said in a statement. “As a Commonwealth, we want to ensure that all students who seek a higher education have a chance to attain it — partly to help them become contributing, productive members of our communities, and partly because hardworking students simply deserve that opportunity. I am pleased that the Attorney General has joined me and my colleagues in working on this issue, and I am delighted to see our shared effort come to fruition.”