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Virginia Grants DREAMers In-State Tuition

Felicia Esperanza, 19, of Woodbridge, Va., whose parents are from Mexico and El Salvador, poses for a portrait after attending the "Rally for Citizenship," a rally in support of immigration reform, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. Bipartisan groups in the House and Senate are said to be completing immigration bills that include a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million immigrants with illegal status. "I'm here to support my family," says Esperanza, "so that they can get their citizenship."

CREDIT: AP/Jacquelyn Martin.

Last week, Virginia granted in-state tuition to beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Virginia now joins its neighboring state, Maryland, as well as Florida for increasing access to higher education for DREAMers.

Virginia Attorney General, Mark. R. Herring (D), announced that DACA beneficiaries will be eligible for in-state tuition provided they have resided in Virginia for at least one year and can establish residency.

Additional criteria include age of arrival, length of residency in the United States, no criminal record, enrollment in school or graduation from a high school, receipt of a GED, or honorable discharge from the U.S. military.

While DACA provides DREAMers access to driver’s licenses and work permits, beneficiaries of the program experience uneven access to higher education across the nation.

DREAMers and their allies have been key to pushing for change whether in terms of legislation or policy, such as Dayana Torres, George Mason University undergraduate and President of DREAMERs of Virginia.

“[Student] organizers have simultaneously taken the role of negotiators and strategic planners in addition to being action organizers and students,” said Torres. “We will continue to take on additional roles with our work because getting in-state tuition for DACA students is not the end of our fight.”

For DREAMer activists and their allies, in-state tuition is a step in a larger process.

“The communities will continue to push for what we still lack, while celebrating the fact that we no longer have to pay three times the amount of tuition when we were considered out-of-state,” Torres said.

Additional issues include access to financial aid and targeted college outreach efforts in immigrant communities.

“The work that still needs to be done covers both outreach and pushing for more obstacles to be lifted from our community,” Torres said.

Jude Paul Dizon is a reporter with Generation Progress.

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