RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In our nation’s capital, there is still uncertainty about the future for young immigrants living in the country illegally.
In our state capital, some of the same conversations are taking place.
Jessica Moreno Caycho is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is also a DACA recipient.
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program, which was started under the Obama administration, gives deportation protection and work status to qualified young people who were brought to the United States as children.
The Trump administration announced the end of DACA in September, with recipients beginning to lose their status in early March.
Since then, the president has said he’s willing to make a deal on the program, though nothing has been made yet.
Moreno came to the U.S. undocumented when she was 8 years old.
“It’s definitely helped me out a lot,” she said.
Being able to secure in-state tuition in Virginia has helped her afford to attend the college of her choice. It has also helped her keep on track to graduate on time.
“Before DACA was implemented, there were still a lot of undocumented people going to college,” she said. “But it took them upwards of 9 to 10 years to finish a degree.”
She said, without the perks of in-state tuition, some undocumented students could only afford to take a few classes at a time. Others would work multiple jobs while balancing their coursework.
But with questions swirling about what will happen to the DACA program, some people are trying to establish protections now in Virginia for current recipients and students to come.
“It’s been a very long fight,” said Moreno.
The costume design major will be with lawmakers Thursday as they consider Senate Bill 810. It would extend in-state tuition to all Virginia students, regardless of federal immigration status. She’ll be in the room to support it.
The bill was introduced by Sen. David Marsden (D-Burke). To view the full language of the bill, click HERE.
“We’re not asking for free tuition or for a handout or anything like that. We’re just asking for the same opportunities as the rest of our peers to go to college,” said Moreno.
The bill focuses on people who graduated from high school in the commonwealth and have applied for permanent residency.
Even though she is set to graduate soon, she is fighting for those who will come after her.
“I would hate to see my peers go through the same struggles I had to when I first was starting college,” she said.
The bill will be heard Thursday morning in the Senate Committee on Education and Health.