Washington, D.C. – The District of Columbia will no longer deny college tuition assistance to U.S. citizens based on their parents’ immigration status, according to MALDEF.
The change in policy follows a decision by the District of Columbia to settle a lawsuit filed by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) in February on behalf of Natalia Villalobos, a life-long resident of the District, who was denied financial assistance because her mother is a not lawful permanent resident or United States citizen. MALDEF attorneys alleged that the policy violated the equal protection and due process protections of the U.S. Constitution.
“The settlement will ensure greater access to valuable college assistance for students based on their own merit, regardless of their parents’ immigration status,” said Burth López, a staff attorney with MALDEF. “It is an important step in making sure that Latinos and all students can obtain the education required to fulfill the American Dream, no matter where their parents are from.”
MALDEF’s suit challenged a provision of the District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) program that classified certain students as residents of the District based on their parents’ residency and denied “residency” to certain immigrant parents regardless of how long they lived in D.C. The DCTAG program provides college-bound residents living in the district up to $10,000 per year to help offset the cost of attending public colleges and universities outside the District of Columbia.
District officials will no longer consider a parent’s immigration status in determining the domicile of a DCTAG applicant, according to the settlement agreement, which states: “Effective immediately, OSSE agrees that it will no longer consider a parent’s immigration status in determining the domicile of a DCTAG applicant, and will update its “DC-TAG Guidance for Students with Special Circumstances…accordingly.”
As a result, Ms. Villalobos, will apply to DCTAG.
“I can finally say that this chapter of my life is closed and I can focus on getting my education,” said Natalia Villalobos. We all deserve to be treated equally no matter what our race, color, immigration status, or religious beliefs are.”
Ms. Villalobos applied for DCTAG grants for the 2015-16 and 2016-2017 academic years. She was denied assistance, however, after district officials determined that because of her mother’s immigration status, she could not establish residency in the District of Columbia. Ms. Villalobos’ mother lives lawfully in the United States as a recipient of Temporary Protected Status from the federal government.
“That all citizens should be treated equally and that no one should be judged by their parentage are bedrock principles of our democracy,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Every American owes a debt of gratitude to the plaintiff here for vindicating these core national values.”