ACLU Says Schools Must Provide In-state Tuition to U.S.-Born Virginia Residents Even If Parents Are Undocumented

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
March 25, 2008 12:00 am

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Virginia civil liberties organization offers legal assistance to U.S.-born Virginia students who are denied in-state tuition


Richmond, VA — In letters being mailed today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia warns Virginia colleges against denying in-state tuition to U.S.-born students whose parents are undocumented immigrants. The ACLU’s letter responds to a memo from the Virginia Attorney General’s office claiming that undocumented persons are not considered to be domiciled in Virginia and therefore their children are presumed not to be domiciled here as well. One must be domiciled in Virginia to receive in-state tuition.

The ACLU of Virginia is prepared to offer legal representation to any student in this situation who is denied in-state tuition.

The issue arose recently after a U.S.-born high school student residing in Alexandria was told he might not receive in-state tuition rates from the University of Virginia. UVA officials later relented, but there is no guarantee that other students applying to UVA or other schools will receive the same treatment.

“It appears that the AG is allowing his bias against immigrants to taint his thinking,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Under the AG’s line of reasoning, a U.S. citizen born in Virginia and who has spent his entire life here could be denied in-state tuition because his parents are not lawfully present. That’s patently unfair and a bit preposterous, if you think about it. At the very least it violates a fundamental tenet of U.S law — that you do not punish children for the actions of their parents.”

“The AG also misinterprets Virginia’s own laws regarding domicile,” added Willis. “The AG says that undocumented persons cannot be considered domiciliaries of Virginia. But there’s nothing in the law that requires lawful presence in order to be domiciled here. Domicile merely means you live in Virginia and intend to remain here.”

“The Attorney General does give some wiggle room that may allow universities to offer in-state tuition rates to these students under some circumstances,” added Willis. “But the ACLU is saying is that the schools must give them in-state tuition. They have no choice in the matter.”

A copy of the letter from ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg to the presidents of Virginia’s public colleges and universities follows. The memo from Attorney General McDonnell can be found at

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