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Virginia AG bypasses lawmakers on dream act

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring
(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said illegal immigrants, “lawfully present in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program qualify for in-state tuition, provided they meet Virginia’s domicile requirements.” His statement was in a letter to the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), the presidents of the state’s colleges and universities, and the chancellor of the Virginia Community College System April 29.

If the AG’s decision stands as law, it will reduce the burden of responsibility legislation proposed in Richmond in recent legislative sessions would have placed on so-called dreamers – undocumented students seeking in-state tuition prices. All Virginia students must maintain continuous residence in Virginia for at least one year, pay Virginia state income taxes, or register of a motor vehicle in Virginia, according to the letter.

The Tuition Equity Act (HB 747) filed in Richmond and blocked for the eighth time in as many years, would have required alien students to:

• Attend a Virginia high school for at least three years; and
• At least one parent or guardian has filed Virginia income tax returns for at least three years prior to the date of enrollment.

Herring looked to Maryland where the legislature passed and voters approved via referendum similar legislation in 2012 to sell his decision. Maryland has seen an increase in graduation rates among Latino students since enacting it’s so-called Dream Act. The AG said Maryland officials attribute this to “tuition equity.” If a scholar or attorney general thinks a conclusion can be drawn from that small of a sample, something is amiss.

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