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In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students? Senate Republicans Say No

Party-line committee vote kills Dream Act legislation in Virginia Senate; House versions of the bill remain in committee.

Thursday morning the Senate Committee on Education and Health voted to kill a bill to allow students with deferred action status to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. File photo by James Cullum
Thursday morning the Senate Committee on Education and Health voted to kill a bill to allow students with deferred action status to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. File photo by James Cullum

By Jason Spencer

Seven Republican state Senators have blocked a bill that would allow children of undocumented immigrants to receive in-state college tuition from moving forward in the upper chamber of the Virginia General Assembly.

The Senate Committee on Education and Health voted 6-7 down party lines Thursday morning to kill Virginia DREAM Act legislation, as it is known, which would have allowed students that had been granted certain status by the Department of Homeland Security and had a family history of paying taxes to pay in-state rates at colleges and universities in Virginia.

Proponents argue that the state already pays to educate such students in their younger years but then drives them away with the cost of higher education right at the time they would be entering the workforce and paying taxes themselves.

Two similar bills — one by Del. Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, and another by Del. Tom Rust, R-Herndon — have been filed in the General Assembly's lower chamber and remained in the House Education Committee on Thursday night, according to the Legislature's website.

The Senate bill was the effort of a trio of Democrats, Sen. Donald McEachin of Henrico County, Adam Ebbin of Alexandria and Dave Marsden of Burke.

"These young people are a part of our communities, and they’re not going to disappear tomorrow," Ebbin said in a statement. "So why wouldn’t we give them this tool to succeed in and contribute to those communities?”

Voting to kill the Senate version of the bill was Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield; Sen. Stephen Newman, R-Forest; Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Roanoke; Sen. Jeffrey McWaters, R-Virginia Beach; Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg; Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Galax; and Sen. Thomas Garrett, R-Hadensville.

Voting for the bill were Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw of Springfield; Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth; Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston; Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton; Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria; and Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News.

Last month students who graduated from Virginia high schools filed a lawsuit  in an attempt to overturn a decision by the State Council of Higher Education that makes them ineligible for in-state tuition rates. 

Louise Epstein January 24, 2014 at 11:05 AM
Perhaps the votes against the Dream Act can be explained in part by where the state senators live. Tom Rust is a Republican from Herndon. Chris Braunlich, a Republican and former Fairfax County School Board member from the Lee District, recently published an article in support of the Dream Act. http://www.thomasjeffersoninst.org/files/3/CNB_immigrantwork.pdf

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