For decades, the issue of Immigration has been a matter of great concern and controversy within the United States political environment. This discussion has been surrounded with concerns over economic, social, and humanitarian factors which have functioned to sustain the debate surrounding Immigration reform and policy. Policymakers have been unable to draft and reach a consensus on universal Immigration reform. As a result, Immigration continues to be a hotly contested topic not only at the national level but also at the state level.
Immigration policy determines who may become a new citizen of the United States or enter the country as a temporary worker, student, refugee, or permanent resident. The federal government is responsible for setting and enforcing most immigration policy.
Meanwhile, states assume a largely supportive role, enacting their own supplementary laws and setting policies that may, for example, determine which public services immigrants can access, establish employee screening requirements, or guide the interaction between related state agencies and their federal counterparts.
Some jurisdictions, including some states, cities, and counties, have adopted policies of not cooperating with federal immigration enforcement; these jurisdictions have become known as sanctuary jurisdictions.
Major Issues Regarding Immigration
The extent to which non-citizen immigrants ought to be able to access public services, including healthcare programs, in-state tuition at state universities, and driver’s licenses, is debated. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) argues that due to lower levels of education, both naturalized and non-citizen immigrants cost more in public services than they pay in taxes, “creating a net fiscal deficit” on federal, state, and local government budgets. On the other hand, the Cato Institute argues that, partially due to eligibility barriers, both naturalized and non-citizen immigrants use fewer public services than native residents; when immigrants do use services, Cato found, it is at a lower average cost than native residents
According to the Medicaid website, 32 states allowed lawfully residing immigrant children or pregnant women to enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as of October 2016. Virginia allowed lawfully residing immigrant children and pregnant women to enroll in Medicaid and CHIP. While those services are unavailable to individuals residing in the country without legal permission, many receive care at emergency rooms and federally qualified health centers that receive government funding and do not check citizenship status.
As of October 2016, 20 states offered in-state tuition to individuals residing in the country without legal permission. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, these states “typically require attendance and graduation at state high schools, acceptance at a state college or university, and promising to apply for legal status as soon as eligible.” Six states barred non-citizens or individuals residing in the country without legal permission from accessing in-state tuition; the remainder of states had established no formal policy on the matter. As of October 2016, Virginia had not established a statewide policy on offering in-state tuition to individuals residing in the state without legal permission.
Sanctuary States, Counties, Cities
Source: Center for Immigration Studies
Cities, counties, and states have laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, policies, or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE — either by refusing to or prohibiting agencies from complying with ICE detainers, imposing unreasonable conditions on detainer acceptance, denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, or otherwise impeding communication or information exchanges between their personnel and federal immigration officers.
- Arlington County
- Chesterfield County
- Fairfax County
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;2.
- Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;3.
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;4.
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;5.
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;6.
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and7.
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor,or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
IN-STATE TUITION POLICY
DACA recipients who meet all other requirements qualify for in-state tuition in Virginia, but otherwise undocumented students are not eligible for in-state tuition.
- In April 20124, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that under current state law, DACA recipients qualify for in-state tuition.
Immigration Advocate Organizations in Virginia
Anti Immigration Organizations in Virginia
Status: Passed House (2/5/19) Passed Senate (2/18/19)
Chief Patron: Delegate Kaye Kory
Status: Assigned Education sub: Post-Secondary and Higher Ed (on 1/13/2020)
Chief Patron: Delegate Alfonso H. Lopez
Status: House: Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice (12/30/19)
Chief Patron: Delegate Kathy. K.L. Tran
Status: House: Assigned HWI sub: Social Services
Subcommittees: Health, Health Professions, Institutions, Social Services
Sickles, Mark (Chair)
Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration
John Cornyn (TX)
Lindsey Graham (SC)
Chuck Grassley (IA)
Michael S. Lee (UT)
Ted Cruz (TX)
Joshua D. Hawley (MO)
Thom Tillis (NC)
Joni Ernst (IA)
John Kennedy (LA)
Dick Durbin (IL)
Dianne Feinstein (CA)
Patrick Leahy (VT)
Amy Klobuchar (MN)
Christopher A. Coons (DE)
Richard Blumenthal (CT)
Mazie Hirono (HI)
Cory Booker (NJ)
Polls & Statistics
Immigration Opinion Poll
In your view, should immigration be kept at its present level, increased or decreased?
As of 2019, 37% believe it should be kept at present level, 27% increased, 35% decreased, and 2% no opinion.
Americans’ immigration policy priorities
Source: Pew Research Center
Democrats and Republicans have starkly different priorities when it comes to the nation’s immigration policies. Yet there also are ideological differences within both parties on the importance of some priorities, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Two-thirds of Americans (67%) say it is very or somewhat important to establish a way for most immigrants in the country illegally to remain here legally, according to the survey, which comes as the Supreme Court evaluates the Trump administration’s decision to end a program that has protected from deportation nearly 800,000 unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
And while 82% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say this is a very or somewhat important goal, only about half of Republicans and Republican leaners (48%) say the same.
Virginia poised to aid undocumented immigrants with driver’s licenses, other measures
Source: The Washington Post
By Antonio Olivo
February 8, 2020
Several hundred thousand undocumented immigrants in Virginia could soon win permission to legally drive in the state, a life-altering reform that is part of a host of immigrant-related bills making their way through the General Assembly.
As Tuesday’s deadline approaches for bills to “cross over” between the legislature’s two chambers before they can be sent to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), the newly empowered Democratic majority is pushing nearly 20 bills advocates say would make life easier for immigrant families across the state.
Chief among them is legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, a years-long goal that the Northam administration estimates would affect 308,000 people.
House, Senate pass long-anticipated immigrants’ rights bills
Source: Virginia Mercury
By Kate Masters
February 12, 2020
Legislation extending driver privileges and in-state tuition regardless of immigration status, pushed for years by advocates for Virginia immigrants, cleared both chambers of the General Assembly Tuesday.
“There’s a growing cognizance that these are communities who need licenses and in-state tuition,” said Monica Sarmiento, the executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “They’re filled with talented people who already contribute to the Virginia economy and need a path forward to build their own prosperity.”
Advocates packed the Capitol for the vote on driving privileges, filling an overflow room where an interpreter translated the debate as unfolded on the floor of the Senate.