A local state senator changed her vote Thursday on providing in-state tuition rates to beneficiaries of a federal program that shields the children of undocumented immigrants from deportation, killing a bill that made it out of the same committee earlier this month.
Two weeks ago, Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, served as the swing vote in helping get a controversial bill granting in-state tuition for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients out of the Senate Committee on Education and Health. On Thursday, she changed course.
“The federal system is broken. The federal government needs to fix it,” Chase said before a party-line vote to kill the bill. “Congress needs to get their act together and fix it.”
After its Jan. 17 approval, the bill was sent to the Senate Finance Committee, who, after determining that there was no fiscal impact, sent it back to the Education and Health Committee. The committee has eight Republicans and seven Democrats.
Thursday’s action of killing the bill is in line with what the committee has done in the past, including last year when opponents cited the lack of federal resolution on DACA.
“We can talk about the wall and we can talk about all of this stuff,” said Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, on Thursday. “We need to fix these problems. We need a federal immigration fix that helps us work our way through it.”
Then-President Barack Obama put DACA in place in 2012 through executive order. It provides work permits and temporary protection from deportation for about 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents.
The Trump administration announced in September 2017 plans to roll back the program. While it still exists, it’s become a bargaining chip in federal political negotiations, including in the recent government shutdown as President Donald Trump pushes for a wall on the southern border.
More than 20 states offer in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrant students, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
At Virginia Commonwealth University, for example, tuition and fees for in-state students this year is $14,490, while out-of-state students pay $35,798.
There are close to 1,400 DACA recipients enrolled in Virginia public colleges this year, according to state data. The vast majority of them — 1,341 of 1,376 — lived in the state.
Steve Yoo, a representative from the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, a Korean and Asian American advocacy organization, said he was “incredibly disappointed” by Thursday’s vote.
Yoo and DACA recipients rejoiced two weeks ago during a news conference after the bill, from Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, made it out of committee. The mood was more somber on Thursday.
“Once again, my education as a DACA recipient didn’t matter,” said Yanet Amado, a VCU student.
Boysko, who said she talked with Chase before the vote, said politics was to blame for the bill dying.
“This is an election year … and that has a lot to do with what’s going on,” she said, adding that she plans on introducing the bill again next year.
A similar bill in the House of Delegates by Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, died in subcommittee last week.