Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is scheduled to speak at 3 p.m. on his decision to allow some undocumented immigrants who arrived as children in the United States to qualify for in-state tuition at Virginia colleges.
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Herring based his advice to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia on changes in immigration law under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012. DACA instructed federal authorities to defer deportation of some minors brought illegally into the US and allowed them to establish residency in Virginia.
Herring argued that these "DREAMers" qualify for in-state tuition, though they would still need to be accepted to a Virginia college, maintain DACA status, and meet the same domicile requirements as all other students.
"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," Herring said in a written statement. "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...It's what the law requires, it makes economic sense for Virginia, and it's the right thing to do."
Virginia House Republican leaders said they were "deeply concerned" by Herring's letter saying he has, "once again placed his personal, political ideology ahead of the will of the people and their elected representatives."
In a written statement, House Republicans argued the issues should be handled, "through the legislative and democratic processes, not by the unilateral actions of one individual."
Nineteen other states, have similar programs in place, according to the Attorney General's office. Around 8,100 young people in Virginia have had their applications for DACA approved, as of December 2013. To receive approval they must have immigrated to the United States as children, had no say in their arrival process, and are now Virginians for all practical purposes. They must have no criminal record, be enrolled in school or have graduated from a high school, received a GED, or an honorable discharge from the U.S. military.