Virginia AG: ‘Si’ to free in-state tuition for illegals, mum on amnesty battle

Virginia AG: ‘Si’ to free in-state tuition for illegals, mum on amnesty battle

Virginia is sitting out the legal fight over President Obama’s controversial amnesty order, even though illegal immigration costs Virginians more than $1.8 billion a year.

Indeed, while 25 other state attorneys general are suing the administration to block the path to citizenship for some 5 million illegals in this country, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is rolling out more government benefits.

The Democrat ruled last spring that Virginia must provide illegal immigrants subsidized in-state tuition to Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

Herring spokesman Michael Kelley told this reporter the AG made the decision “after extensive legal review”:

This is the exact same conclusion then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell reached regarding immigrants with temporary protected status. Because they have been approved for (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), these students are considered ‘lawfully present.’

DACA students can be up to 31 years old to qualify for the tuition breaks.

The AG’s office offered this press release to explain the legal issues.

To his knowledge, Kelley said the attorney general “was never asked to participate” in the 25-state lawsuit now pending in a Texas federal court. The lawsuit challenges President Obama’s order to legalize more than 4 million residents in this country illegally.

As of December 2013, approximately 8,100 people in Virginia had their DACA applications approved.

Virginia taxpayers subsidize roughly half the tuition expense for in-state residents — about $6,000 per year per student.

All told, Virginia taxpayers will pay more than the $719-per-household cost of providing services to illegal immigrants, according to estimates by the Federation for American Immigration Reform in 2010.

“We set the rules as to who is eligible, and the rates, because we appropriate the money for in-state students,” Marshall said of the Legislature.

David North, a policy analyst with the Center for Immigration Studies, questioned Herring’s decision:

Unfortunately, such a ruling is part of a larger picture of supportive policies toward illegal aliens that simply makes it attractive to come to the U.S., legally or otherwise.

Ruling in the other direction would simply mean that a Virginia-based illegal would be treated like a citizen of another state, and be forced to pay his or her full tuition — hardly a death sentence.

Marshall, one of the General Assembly most conservative members, said Herring’s actions — and inaction — were consistent:

Deciding that he is a Rule of One for who can attend Virginia state universities at the in-state tuition rate, it is not surprising that he is sitting this lawsuit out regarding President Obama’s unilateral suspension of the immigration laws as applied to 4 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

He also noted that the General Assembly’s Republican leadership has “done nothing” to counter Herring’s tuition ruling.

At last report, 20 other states offer in-state tuition to undocumented students.

The State Commission on Higher Education in Virginia did not respond to my request seeking the fiscal impact of Herring’s tuition ruling.

Read more by Kenric Ward at


Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”

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