- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Virginia state Senate on Tuesday defeated a measure that would have barred young illegal immigrants granted temporary relief from deportation by the federal government from being eligible for in-state college tuition rates, rejecting the bill that challenged a decision last year from the state’s attorney general.

The measure, which already faced a veto threat from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, failed in the Republican-controlled chamber on a 19-20 vote.

Sen. John Watkins, a Powhatan Republican retiring at the end of his term, joined all 19 of the chamber’s Democrats in voting no. Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, Loudoun Republican, did not vote.

Vote-watchers privately indicated that the bill’s defeat on the chamber floor was expected even though it advanced out of committee last week on a party-line, 8-7 vote.

Republicans said the measure was necessary to clarify existing law after Attorney General Mark R. Herring told the state’s colleges and universities last year that the illegal immigrants granted temporary legal status under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were allowed to enroll at reduced rates if they met other requisite criteria.

Mr. Herring hailed the vote as good news.

“It’s heartening to see a bipartisan group of senators showed compassion and fairness towards these young people,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Dick Black, Loudoun Republican and sponsor of the bill, said the enrollment standards could trigger a federal statute that would require equal protection — and reduced tuition rates — to U.S.-born students even if they come from out of state.

“I do not believe that this is something that we should take a risk on,” he said.

Opponents argued that federal statute does allow for the students to receive reduced rates if they meet other required standards and pointed out that 81 such students are enrolled in four-year colleges and universities in the state.

“That’s really going to break the bank,” said Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat. “Let me tell you, we don’t want to go on record as [a] state Senate putting a bill like this on the books. We really don’t. I mean, talk about years from now how people are going to look back on us. This is not a plus.”

Approximately 20 states have granted in-state tuition to such illegal immigrants, and Mr. McAuliffe has called on lawmakers to approve such legislation granting the reduced rates in his State of the Commonwealth address last week.

A House version of the measure is sponsored by Delegate David I. Ramadan, Loudoun Republican.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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