College tuition and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants are among hundreds of new laws taking effect in Virginia this Wednesday.
“Virginia has made history as the first Southern state to implement this law, joining 20 other states that offer regular tuition to undocumented students,” said Kim Bobo, director of the Virginia Ecumenical Center for Public Policy (VICPP).
“In these states, students, employers and society as a whole have gained tremendous social and economic benefits,” Bobo added in a statement for Channel 12 local television.
Yanet Limón Amado, a VICPP organizer, said the enactment and enforcement of this law “is a victory for all undocumented students in Virginia.
“They have spent countless days participating in mobilizations and testifying at General Assembly committee hearings,” she added. “This has been a movement created by undocumented students and it is beautiful to finally see the positive outcome of eight years of struggle.
The new legislation stipulates several requirements for undocumented migrants to benefit from equitable enrollment in the state’s 39 institutions of higher education, including that the student has attended Virginia’s public school for at least two years.
Another requirement for undocumented students to be able to enroll at the same cost as Virginia residents is that they have graduated from a Virginia high school since July 2008.
One option is for the student to pass the high school equivalency exam after July 1, 2008, and another is for the student to provide proof, in the case of a dependent student, that at least one relative, custodian, or guardian has paid taxes in the state for two years prior to the date of enrollment.
The law states that students who meet these criteria will be eligible for in-state tuition regardless of citizenship or immigration status, except for those who are in the United States on student visas.
Another law that is being introduced in Virginia will allow up to 250,000 undocumented immigrants to obtain a motor vehicle license in the state, after a struggle of several years.
Both laws reflect the political turnaround in the state where in the November 2018 legislative elections and for the first time in half a century, the Democratic Party won a majority in both houses of the Assembly giving strong political support to the governor, Ralph Northam.
The version passed in the Virginian lower house granted a common driver’s license for all persons without the need for applicants to present documents about their legal immigration status.
The version that passed in the Senate, and was eventually enacted by Northam, extends to undocumented immigrants a specific permit that is different from the common license.
The lack of a driver’s license “especially affects working people, those who have to move around for a job, housewives who take children to school or to the doctor, or go shopping,” Aranda Yapog, director of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO), told Efe.
“The vast majority of those affected are Latino, but there is also a large Asian population in this situation,” he said.