Editorial: A rare, positive note on immigration

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The Roanoke Times - Sunday, January 22, 2012


Given the makeup this year of Virginia's General Assembly, it might better be labeled a "Dream On" Act, but freshman Del. Alfonso Lopez has filed what proponents describe as a state-level Dream Act.

The federal version, which has failed to pass in Congress, would give some children of illegal immigrants a path to U.S. citizenship through college or military service. Virginia may have some high-blown notions of itself, but it doesn't claim any power to grant citizenship.

What the state Dream Act would do — quite sensibly — is allow some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to attend Virginia's public colleges and universities.

Criteria include graduation from a high school in the state, residency for three years since graduating (or one year if the person is a military veteran or on active duty), a demonstrated intent to seek permanent U.S. residency and Virginia income tax returns - or in the case of a dependent student, a parent's returns — for at least three years prior to enrollment.

Lopez, a Democrat elected in immigrant-rich Arlington, is not likely to prevail in a solidly Republican House and an assembly in which the Senate has just fallen under the GOP's control. His bill, HB779, was referred to the House Courts of Justice subcommittee on immigration, where four other bills have landed at this point, all aimed at nabbing illegal immigrants who might slip through the hands of police.

If Lopez is alone in staking out high ground on immigration policy, that doesn't mean he is wrong.

The federal Dream Act is aimed at incorporating foreign-born, but American-reared, offspring of illegal immigrants fully into U.S. society, which stands to gain from the talents and contributions of the many who did not choose to enter the country illegally and now are American in every way except legal status.

The state version would have the more modest, but still efficacious, effect of helping them to get an education that prepares them to be fully contributing residents of Virginia — where they, or their parents, pay taxes, too.

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