Va. lawmakers to ponder giving illegal immigrants’ kids in-state tuition

Posted at 6:56 PM, Dec 21, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-21 18:56:12-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- State lawmakers will consider Dream Act legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

State Senator Don McEachin plans to introduce a bill that would grant children of undocumented workers eligibility for in-state tuition at Virginia’s colleges and universities.

The legislation would only apply to students who have attended a Virginia high school for at least three years and whose family pays income taxes.

“I just think it’s a matter of fundamental fairness,” McEachin says. “Children don’t have a real say on where they end up and if they end up in the commonwealth and they’re hardworking and they’re taxpayers, then they should be able to take advantage of our world class university system.”

Currently Virginia schools have a legal obligation to educate the children of undocumented workers through high school, but the state does not provide those students the same benefits as Virginia citizens when it comes to higher education.

A similar bill introduced during the 2012 session failed to pass the House of Delegates.

While Republican lawmakers have been reluctant to consider Dream Act legislation in the past, Republican Senator Ryan McDougle says he’s not ruling out the idea.

“Virginia is a state of immigrants,” McDougle says. “I think one of the things that’s important for us to focus on is equity and fairness, what is fairness to Virginia residents and what’s fairness to those who’ve lived here.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry was heavily criticized by Republicans during the presidential primary for supporting similar legislation in Texas.

However, CBS 6 political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth says the political tide could be turning. Republicans lost 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 presidential election.

“My sense is that we’ll still see some fairly substantial opposition to that in Virginia,” Holsworth says. “But what you’re more likely to see this time is a more divided Republican party in the GA.”

At the federal level, The 2013 Dream Act is expected to be re-introduced in Congress. The legislation would provide millions of immigrant children the opportunity to receive U.S. Residency Cards if they meet certain conditions.