Attorney General Agrees with ACLU of Virginia's Interpretation of Law

Richmond, VA -- The ACLU of Virginia welcomes the Attorney General's announcement today that students who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and meet other criteria generally applicable to all students are eligible for in-state status at Virginia's public colleges and universities.
"The ACLU of Virginia has been proud to work alongside many coalition partners and legislators from both sides of the aisle for many years in order to bring tuition equity to immigrant students. In March, we asked Attorney General Herring to help accomplish this objective, and we thank him for moving us quickly down a path to fulfilling the basic American principles of fairness, equality, and opportunity for Virginia DACA students who will now be eligible to apply for in-state tuition," said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. "These students live here, attend Virginia high schools, and pay Virginia taxes; they are Virginians in every meaningful respect, and we are pleased that the Attorney General has informed Virginia's higher education officials that he agrees that DACA students are eligible for in-state tuition just like other Virginia residents," concluded Gastañaga.
In a letter addressed to the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV), Virginia Community College System (VCCS), and Virginia's Public Colleges and Universities, Attorney General Herring said that DACA students are capable of establishing domicile and qualifying for in-state tuition in accordance with Virginia Code § 23-74.
Providing Virginia's DACA students with the opportunity to apply for in-state tuition rates will also provide economic benefits to the Commonwealth. Every year Virginia loses more than $7.5 million in state and local taxes by failing to provide a post-secondary education to DACA students. The average college graduate pays approximately $2,100 more in Virginia state and local income taxes than someone with a high school degree. Because tuition equity will increase the number of college graduates who are likely to remain in Virginia and earn higher wages, our Commonwealth would generate significantly more income, sales, and property taxes.
"Today's announcement is a win, win for the Commonwealth," said Joseph Montaño, Immigrants' Rights Coordinator of the ACLU of Virginia. "For students, this can make the dream of college a reality. For our economy and businesses, it can increase our tax base and provide more well-trained workers. It's fundamentally fair and economically just," concluded Montaño.
In 2012, the federal government announced the creation of the DACA program to allow young immigrants who came to the United States as children and who satisfy certain educational and other requirements to live and, in most cases, work in the United States on a renewable two-year basis. Their authorized stay, like that of people who are on temporary protected status, is renewable indefinitely. Virginia law already recognizes that those on deferred action status are residents in Virginia and are eligible to apply for Virginia driver's licenses. Nonetheless, SCHEV informed colleges that DACA's students were not eligible for in-state aid because they could not establish domicile - a decision not informed by law or fact.
Click here to read the ACLU of Virginia letter to Attorney General Herring.