Democrat Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who defeated Republican Mark Obenshain after a recount in 2013, unilaterally declared on Tuesday that illegal immigrants who meet various requirements would qualify for in-state tuition rates at the state’s colleges and universities.
Those who received temporary amnesty through President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action program and graduated from a Virginia high school would qualify for in-state tuition, and Herring’s announcement would apply to nearly 8,000 illegal immigrants who have received temporary amnesty, according to estimates.
“I have concluded that in-state tuition rates can and should be extended [to illegal immigrants who qualify],” Herring said at a press conference at Northern Virginia Community College. “They have known no home but Virginia.”
Republican Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William Howell and other Virginia GOP leaders said in a statement that they were “deeply concerned” by “what appears to be a continued willingness to ignore and circumvent the duly-adopted laws of the Commonwealth.”
They noted that for the second time since taking office, Herring has “demonstrated blatant disregard for his oath of office, his responsibilities as Attorney General of Virginia, and most importantly, the rule of law” and placed “his personal, political ideology ahead of the will of the people and their elected representatives.”
Herring made the announcement after Democrats could not get various DREAM Act bills passed in Virginia’s legislature.
“The numerous and complex policy questions surrounding immigration are the subject of a vigorous and ongoing political and legislative debate at both the federal and state level. Undoubtedly, many Virginians hold sharply contrasting views on these issues and how they should be resolved,” they wrote. “What is clear and not subject to debate, however, is that these issues should be considered, discussed and eventually resolved through the legislative and democratic processes, not by the unilateral actions of one individual.”
Herring also unilaterally declared days after being sworn in that Virginia would not defend lawsuits against gay marriage. Virginia’s Republican leaders said that though Herring promised to take politics out of the Attorney General’s office, his decisions are undermining “the credibility and integrity of the office” and should “cause concern among anyone who cares for or believes in the rule of law.”