(CNSNews.com) - Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, says young people who are in the commonwealth illegally may qualify for in-state tuition.
"These 'DREAMers' are already Virginians in some very important ways," Herring told the presidents of Virginia's public colleges and universities on Tuesday.
"In most cases they were raised here, they graduated from Virginia schools, and they have known no home but Virginia. They might be the valedictorian or salutatorian of their high school, but because they were brought here as children many years ago, an affordable education remains out of their reach.
"Instead of punishing and placing limits on these smart, talented, hard-working young people, Virginia should extend them an opportunity for an affordable education. It's what the law requires, it makes economic sense for Virginia, and it's the right thing to do."
Herring said under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, these students are "lawfully present in the United States."
And he said if Virginia hopes to remain competitive in a global economy, "we must embrace a strategy that maximizes our talent pool and helps all Virginians reach their full potential."
Herring noted that 19 states have enacted some form of "tuition equity" at their public colleges and universities.
To qualify for in-state tuition, Virginia's DREAMers must be approved for DACA status. (According to Herring, as of December 2013, approximately 8,100 young people in Virginia have had their applications for DACA approved.)
These young people will have to be accepted by a Virginia college or university; and they must meet Virginia's residency rules.
In June 2012, President Obama announced that his administration was taking steps to "mend our nation's immigration policy, to make it more fair..."
Because Congress had not acted on immigration reform, the president said his Department of Homeland Security would "life the shadow of deportation" from people who were brought to this country illegally by their parents.
"This is not amnesty, this is not immunity," Obama said at the time. "This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people."
President Obama's DACA program is open to people who were under the age of 31 as of June 2012; came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday; have continuously lived in the U.S. since June 2007; are currently in school or have graduated or have been honorably discharged from the military; and have not been convicted of a felony, or a "significant misdemeanor" or three of more other misdemeanors.