CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - High School seniors across the country are hearing back from prospective universities and planning where they’ll study for the next four years. For undocumented students, the dream of college is often a dream deferred. A new bill would potentially make the road to higher education easier for those immigrants.
S.B. 935 passed the Virginia State Senate earlier this week, and was passed by the House of Delegates earlier this week. The bill would allow undocumented immigrants to claim in-state tuition as long as they can prove state residency for the past two years and their parents have filed taxes. Latinx activists in the Charlottesville area say they have been pushing for this for years, and this bill is a game-changer.
“They’ve always been really pushed to the side," Nicole Leal of UVA organization Dreamers on Grounds said. "When this happened, you know, all of the hard work has paid off.”
As it is, undocumented students face a harsh reality when considering higher education, according to activists.
“They have dreams," Edgar Lara of Charlottesville undocumented activist group Sin Barreras said. "They want to go on to university, have other plans that they’d like to pursue, but it’s a huge roadblock.”
Organizers say this fight is far from over. While some universities around the state have hundreds of undocumented students, the University of Virginia has none enrolled at this time.
“I don’t understand why we want to keep education, what why we want to set so many barriers for people that are going to help our community," Lara said. "They’re part of the community, an important part of the community, so are their parents, and to keep education from them it’s just not right.”
“That’s what we’re pushing for with our matriculation campaign, to push the university to matriculate all students regardless of citizenship status," Leal explained.
The bill was signed by both the President of Virginia’s State Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates and is now just waiting for Governor Ralph Northam to sign into law.