Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick granted Massachusetts’s undocumented immigrants in-state tuition on Monday, marking a victory for a generation of young immigrants hoping to attend college.
Following an executive order from President Barack Obama in June, the Department of Homeland Security loosened federal immigration policy regarding deportation of young immigrants that meet certain criteria, known as Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals.
Patrick requested in-state tuition for such DACA beneficiaries on Monday in a letter to Richard Freeland, commissioner of the Department of Higher Education.
“I am directing you to advise the various public higher education campuses to take action accordingly so that this policy can be implemented immediately and uniformly across our 29 state campuses,” Patrick said in the letter.
Patrick’s decision will allow all DACA beneficiaries to take advantage of in-state tuition.
Undocumented immigrants were allowed to go to public university before Patrick’s announcement, but did not receive the discounted price others enjoyed, according to a press release from the Governor’s office.
“As I see it, this is a matter of basic fairness and economic competitiveness,” Patrick said in his letter. “Indeed, our Commonwealth is stronger when we embrace the talent, ideas and work ethic of all immigrants.”
Young immigrants in Massachusetts heralded Patrick’s decision as one that would invigorate the state with more educated, able-bodied members of the community.
“Being able to get in-state will change my life forever,” said Daniel Bravo, a Student Immigrant Movement and DACA-eligible student in a Monday press release from SIM. “I will be able to go to any school I want and achieve my dream of becoming an evolutionary anthropologist.”
David Torres, an immigrant from Colombia and member of the Boston University chapter of SIM, said this decision came as a surprise after much lobbying to both the governor and the legislature to address the issue of tuition for undocumented immigrants.
“It came as a surprise in that we’ve been asking for this for a very long time now,” Torres, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said. “We are very thankful and happy this came through.”
Torres said a small percentage of the Massachusetts community will be able take advantage of this new policy, but it will still provide much-needed help to undocumented immigrants.
“Before this tuition victory you could have very well been paying between $30,000 and $35,000 instead of $20,000 at UMass Boston,” Torres said. “That’s a ridiculous amount of money that no one has.”
The University of Massachusetts Amherst website states that out-of-state tuition and room and board cost is about $12,000 more than in-state tuition.
But Patrick’s decision spurred some dissent in the State House.
House Minority Leader Bradley Jones of North Reading issued a statement on Monday condemning Patrick’s use of executive action and demanding an end to in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
“Governor Patrick’s most recent attempt to usurp the power of the Legislature is cause for concern,” Jones said. “Instead of engaging elected officials from both political parties in constructive conversation and debate, he has put his interests, both politically and personally, above those of Massachusetts’ residents.”
Still, Torres said this would help everyone in the Commonwealth.
“It’s a great opportunity for immigrants to go out and become something,” he said. “The state invests all this money in them, and now they can actually do something with that money that they received and apply themselves. You never know what they can become.”