[JURIST] Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring [official website] wrote a letter [text, PDF] to the state's public colleges and universities on Tuesday declaring that undocumented children who qualify under the US Department of Homeland Security's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program [official website] will be eligible for in-state college tuition [press release]. Experts report the new policy will impact 8,000 students [WP report] immediately. Herring announced his decision in English, Spanish, Hindi, Vietnamese and Korean and declared the initiative will bring "smart, talented, hard-working young people into our economy and society rather than putting a stop sign at the end of 12th grade."
Immigration laws [JURIST feature] trigger some of the most polarizing debates in the US political system, as the issue implicates broad public policy concerns on both the state and federal level. The DACA program was authorized by the Obama administration in June 2012 and since that time 19 other states have acted to extend in-state tuition or improve educational opportunities for qualifying children, so-called Dreamers. In February state legislators in Washington approved a bill [JURIST report] called the Real Hope Act, which makes undocumented children eligible for need-based college financial aid. The legislation passed with strong bipartisan support and it includes $5 million in additional State Need Grant funding to help cover the approximately 1,000 undocumented immigrant students in Washington. In December New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill that will allow students in the country illegally to be eligible for in-state tuition, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper approved [JURIST reports] a similar bill last year.