BY MARKUS SCHMIDT Richmond Times-Dispatch
Several civic groups, business associations and Democratic lawmakers rallied behind Del. Alfonso H. Lopez, D-Arlington, as he rolled out legislation Tuesday that would allow eligible undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates.
“This bipartisan legislation is first and foremost a good business bill,” said Joe Vidulich with the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce at a state Capitol news conference.
“It helps ensure that Virginia businesses can recruit and retain top talent here in Virginia. It makes tremendous sense for Virginia to cultivate and educate their own students rather than turn them away when they come of age,” said Vidulich, vice president of government relations for the Fairfax chamber.
The Lopez measure would allow in-state college tuition rates to immigrant students who are tolerated in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act as long as they graduated from a Virginia high school, have lived in the state for at least three years and paid taxes.
“I would urge you all to look at the tax component in the bill; that makes these students like any other taxpayers in the state,” said Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, who carries similar legislation in the state Senate.
Del. Tom Rust, R-Fairfax, said Monday that he would also re-introduce a measure identical to a bill he sponsored last year but wants to carry the legislation himself.
Lopez said he wouldn’t mind a Republican taking credit for legislation that Democrats have pushed for years.
“I don’t care who gets credit, I just want this issue passed,” Lopez said. “We should work in a bipartisan way on this kind of legislation.”
Hareth Andrade, a graduate of Northern Virginia Community College and founder of DREAMers of Virginia, said high tuition was one of the challenges she faced growing up in Virginia as an undocumented immigrant.
“What hurts the most is having to stare your mother in the face as she holds tears back to tell you that there just isn’t enough money to be able to go to college,” Andrade said.