Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced on Tuesday that undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and are granted legal presence through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would qualify for in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities.
In a speech at Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus, Herring said, “Instead of punishing and placing limits on these smart, talented, hard-working young people, Virginia should extend them an opportunity for an affordable education.”
Under the new law, DACA recipients would qualify for in-state tuition at the University of Virginia, which is $12,998—as opposed to the out-of-state fee of $42,184. The Republican leadership in the state legislature responded in a statement saying, “We are deeply concerned by the attorney general’s actions today and what appears to be a continued willingness to ignore and circumvent the duly adopted laws of the Commonwealth.” Herring’s unilateral action comes four months after the wider-reaching Virginia State DREAM Act (SB 249) was voted down in the Senate Committee on Education and Health.
Virginia is now the nineteenth state to have enacted some form of in-state tuition for qualified undocumented immigrant youth. Herring previously drew the ire of Republicans in January, days after being sworn into office, when he refused to defend Virginia against lawsuits challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.