Starting this fall Virginia will offer illegal immigrants discounted in-state tuition at taxpayer-funded colleges as well as financial aid to attend private universities. This month the state’s governor, Ralph Northam, signed the new law during a heavily publicized visit to Marymount University, a private Arlington college with an enrollment of about 3,200. “These students have grown up in our communities across Virginia,” the Democrat lawmaker said during the signing. “They’ve attended the same schools as their classmates and neighbors, they have taken the same tests, they have played on the same teams, eaten in the same lunch rooms and even gone to the same dances. They are valued members of our communities, and they are Virginians in every sense of the word except for immigration status – something that was chosen for them, not by them, by families just wanting a better life for their children.”
Virginia has 15 public four-year universities, according to its State Council of Higher Education, and dozens of private institutions that will help educate illegal immigrants on taxpayer dime. While more than a dozen other states offer illegal aliens discounted tuition at public universities, Virginia is taking it a step further by also doling out money for a private education. The money will flow through a special program called Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) that annually provides tens of thousands of legal state residents with grants to attend private institutions of higher learning. To be eligible, candidates must be a domiciliary resident of Virginia as defined by the state code, which essentially says individuals shall establish by “clear and convincing evidence” domicile in the Commonwealth for a period of at least one year immediately succeeding the establishment of domiciliary intent. It is not clear what if any changes will be made to the code so illegal immigrants meet the criteria.
More than 12,370 undocumented students are enrolled in higher education in Virginia and the state sees 2,000 illegal immigrants graduate high school annually, according to the Higher Ed Immigration Portal, a platform that tracks and supports undocumented and international students in the U.S. Additionally, Virginia has an illegal immigrant population of 265,830, the group’s figures show. The nonprofit claims that its mission is to build a diverse movement of partners and stakeholders advocating alongside immigrant and international students. Its goal is to expand access to higher education, degree completion, and post-graduate career success. “The U.S. is home to more than 427,000 undocumented students enrolled in higher education,” the portal states. “In their pursuit of higher education, undocumented students actively ready themselves to fill critical skill shortages and become better positioned to support their families, communities, and the U.S. economy.”
At least 19 states offer illegal immigrants discounted tuition typically reserved for legal residents, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seventeen of them— Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington—passed laws to offer the perk. In two states—Oklahoma and Rhode Island—the Board of Regents allows it. In 2013, the University of Hawaii’s Board of Regents and the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents adopted similar policies granting illegal aliens in-state tuition at their school. A year later Virginia’s attorney general enacted a policy giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants protected by a controversial Obama amnesty program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). At the time more than 8,000 illegal immigrants qualified for the taxpayer benefit. The attorney general proclaimed that it was the right thing to do because the illegal immigrants are “Virginians” and the state “should extend them an opportunity for an affordable education.” Three states—Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana—have passed laws prohibiting illegal immigrants from receiving discounted in-state-tuition rates.
Last year Virginia passed a law granting illegal immigrants special driver’s licenses. The measure directs the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to provide driver’s licenses to applicants without a Social Security or taxpayer identification number if they submit a certified statement that their information is true. Democrat legislators introduced the law after promising an influential group known as the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights that they would “fight hard” for immigrant rights, according to a local news report. The same immigrant rights coalition has long demanded legislation to give illegal aliens discounted in-state tuition at Virginia public colleges and universities. One of the lawmakers behind the driver’s license measure, Senator Jennifer Boysko who represents Fairfax, calls it an “economic justice issue.”