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Peter’s Take: For Virginia DREAMers, Partisanship Should Take a Back Seat

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Peter RousselotIn early January, I wrote a column about bipartisan legislation (the Virginia Dream Act) introduced by Arlington Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) and Fairfax De. Tom Rust (R). If enacted, their bill would have granted certain Virginia students whose parents are undocumented the right to attend Virginia colleges at in-state tuition rates. Their proposed legislation failed to pass.

Last week brought a flurry of partisan charges and counter charges about a legal advisory opinion issued by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. Herring concluded that even under current Virginia law, some Virginia students who are lawfully present in the United States under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program qualify for in-state college tuition rates.

Herring’s legal opinion generated a storm of controversy over such issues as whether Herring:

  • as Virginia’s Attorney General, has the authority to do this,
  • should have waited for Virginia to pass a new law on this subject,
  • is the left’s answer to Ken Cuccinelli, or
  • did this in an effort to help him win the Democratic nomination for governor in 2017.

The students themselves have been lost in these fusillades of partisan sniping. Here are some of them:

Rodrigo Balderrama

Rodrigo is a senior at Wakefield High School in Arlington. He was born in Argentina, and came to the United States at the age of 6 with his mother and grandmother. They lacked proper documentation. Rodrigo has been admitted to the University of Virginia, but cannot afford in-state tuition.

Mauricio Segovia Pacheco

Mauricio was brought to Virginia when he was 4 years old. His parents, a cook and a waitress, are undocumented immigrants from Ecuador. Mauricio graduated with a 4.6 GPA from Lake Braddock H.S. in Fairfax, and was admitted to UVA. He can’t afford to attend UVA if he has to pay the out-of-state tuition rate.

Jung Bin Cho

Jung Bin Cho emigrated with his parents from South Korea in 2001 on visas that turned out to be invalid. His family never obtained proper immigration papers. After graduating from high school in Springfield, where he played football and dreamed of a high-tech career, he was admitted to Virginia Tech. However, he is ineligible for in-state tuition and cannot afford out-of-state tuition rates.

Rodrigo Balderrama, Mauricio Segovia Pacheco, and Jung Bin Cho are entirely innocent bystanders who are watching while too many partisan adults fight over whether they are entitled to attend Virginia colleges on the same financial terms as other in-state Virginia students.

It’s time to show them some compassion, set aside our partisan differences, and find a solution to this inequity.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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