- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - An effort to deny in-state college tuition rates to some immigrants has been narrowly defeated in the Virginia Senate.

Introduced by Republican Sen. Richard Black of Loudoun County, the measure was rejected 20-19 Tuesday, largely along party lines, in the Republican-controlled chamber. One Republican, Sen. John Watkins of Powhatan County, voted with minority Democrats against the bill. Another Republican, Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel of Winchester, did not vote.

Democrats assailed the measure, calling it mean-spirited and discriminatory.

“It’s wrong to deny these students an opportunity to earn a college degree,” Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, said. “What does this say about us? What does this say about Virginia?”

Republicans argued that the U.S. immigration system is dysfunctional and it is not the states’ job to fix it.

“The federal government has abdicated its responsibility to act in the area of immigration,” said Sen. Thomas Garrett, R-Louisa County. “Tell the feds to get off their butts and do their jobs.”

Black’s bill was intended to override a ruling last year by Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring that some young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents qualify for in-state tuition rates, which are thousands of dollars a year lower than out-of-state rates. The ruling applies to young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents but have been allowed to stay under an Obama administration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

In the nine months since Herring’s ruling, 81 students have enrolled in Virginia four-year colleges at in-state rates under the program.

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe had said he would veto Black’s bill if it had passed.

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