State Democrats Want Increased Protections for Undocumented Immigrants

Feb 17, 2020

Undocumented immigrants in Virginia may be on the verge of getting new protections.

When Donald Trump was elected president, he instituted new crackdowns on undocumented immigrants across the country. Now Democrats have seized the majority in the House and Senate, in part as a reaction to Trump’s immigration agenda. Those new Democratic majorities are moving forward with a package of bills that will allow undocumented people to get a driver’s license. They also want to let crime victims report problems without disclosing their immigration status.

Delegate Alfonso Lopez is a Democrat from Arlington – and he has introduced a bill to allow in-state tuition for undocumented students every year since he was first elected in 2012. 

“This helps thousands of kids in Virginia who we educate," Lopez explains. "We are required to educate from K through 12, and we invest $11,000 approximately per child. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that we invest in undocumented and Dreamer kids. But we put up a stop sign at high school graduation.”

Republican Senator David Suetterlein of Roanoke says Democrats are just asking for more undocumented immigrants. 

“Immigration is a federal issue," he says. "But at the state level we can either incentivize it or dis-incentivize it. And when you give out things like in-state tuition, you are incentivizing illegal immigration.”

Lawmakers are also considering a bill that would give local governments more flexibility about when they report immigration status of someone who has been accused of a minor misdemeanor. The bill under consideration would make that report an option rather than a mandate.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.