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Let 'undocumented' kids thrive


Date published: 1/7/2014

Let 'undocumented' kids thrive

I know an extraordinary young woman. Her parents brought her to Virginia as a child, hoping to provide a better life for her.

My young friend excelled in school, receiving straight-A's in high school. But without a Social Security number she was not accepted in any Virginia state university. Without an SSN she could not work. She could not get a driver's license.

She was finally admitted to a private university, and graduated in three years, but still was ineligible to work or get a driver's license. She was always afraid that she or a member of her family would be detained or deported, and some have been.

Two million young immigrants like my friend have been similarly blocked from engagement with the American Dream. Finally, in 2012, the Department of Homeland Security enacted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Nearly 7,000 young Virginians have been granted DACA status, which allows them to get two-year work visas, driver's licenses and the ability to live free from deportation.

Happily, my friend was one of them. But DACA does not benefit all students and it does not remove the financial barriers that prevent most undocumented students from pursuing higher education.

Undocumented students are ineligible for federal financial aid, including work study, grants and government loans. The out-of state tuition rates for Virginia DACA students prohibit most of them from attending college.

A bipartisan bill, HB 1525, is coming to the General Assembly this session; it will allow Virginia DACA recipients who qualify to receive in-state tuition rates.

Please support HB 1525 by calling and visiting the office of your delegate during the session. For young people to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. We must help keep their American Dream alive.

Patricia Smith

Locust Grove