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Undocumented Virginia Students Sue For In-State Tuition

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College students speak at the Legal Aid Justice Center.
Armando Trull/WAMU
College students speak at the Legal Aid Justice Center.

A group of undocumented students is suing Virginia education authorities in an effort to get in-state tuition.

Last year, President Barack Obama issued an executive order known as "deferred action for childhood arrivals" or DACA. It allows some young undocumented immigrants, such as 19-year-old Giancarla Rojas, to avoid deportation and get social security numbers and drivers licenses.

"I could work and I could drive," Rojas says.

The one thing the Falls Church High School graduate can't do in Virginia is attend a public college and pay in-state tuition, even though she's lived in the commonwealth for seven years and now has federal documents.

Rojas says she wasn't even allowed to apply for in-state tuition.

"They wouldn't even show me, because I wasn't qualified," she says. "They wouldn't even bother to show me."

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has issued guidance to Commonwealth colleges saying that DACA students do not have a lawful status in this country and thus do not qualify for in-state tuition.

Rojas is among seven plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Arlington County Court by the Legal Aid Justice Center. The Legal Aid Justice Center is also petitioning the incoming Governor to issue an executive order mandating that DACA students be granted in state tuition.

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