Va. bill would allow DACA students to pay in-state tuition

Va. bill would allow DACA students to pay in-state tuition

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia college students want lawmakers to pay close attention to a bill that allows children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition.

Many of the children are DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients and say if this bill doesn't pass, they may have to drop out of school.

On Tuesday, undocumented Virginia college students and their supporters waited in the hallway outside the House chambers. They were trying to get the attention of House Speaker Kirk Cox.

They say Cox and other lawmakers are ignoring House Bill 343, which allows college students - many who benefited from DACA - to pay in-state tuition.

There are some requirements: they have to be a Virginia high school graduate; one of their guardians have filed a Virginia income tax return; and they have applied for permanent residency.

"We are not asking for free tuition," says Jessica Morena-Caycho, a DACA student at VCU. "We are not asking for any handouts. All we are asking is for the same privileges as our peers to attend colleges at the same rate as they are."

If this bill does not pass, VCU junior Yanet Amado says her future in higher education is simple.

"There's no way I will be able to finish my education," says Amado. "There's no way that I'm going to be able to pay $30,000 a semester at VCU. There's no way."

Amado was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was eight years old. She went to school in Henrico County and hopes to get her masters in international law.

"What is it that I need to prove? That I belong here? That I grew up here? That I pay taxes?" says Amado. "I do everything by the books, why can I not have a seat in the classroom?"

Cox was not available for an interview, but his office gave this statement:

Immigration reform is a very important issue that needs to be dealt with on the federal level. Precious in-state tuition slots are already very limited and the Speaker believes Virginia students should be first in line for those slots.

HB 343 has been referred to the House Rules Committee, which Cox is the chairman. The DACA students say it should be in the education committee. They promise to keep fighting for in-state tuition no matter what happens.

A similar bill in the state Senate was voted down last month.

Copyright 2018 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.