Immigrant students rally at Vermont State House in support of higher education bill

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VermontBiz Lawmakers and immigrant community members rallied today at the Vermont State House to celebrate the passage of the “Education Equity for Immigrant Students” proposal by the legislature and to call on Governor Scott to sign the bill into law. The press conference was livestreamed and is available for viewing.

Once enacted, the bill will ensure that all Vermont residents, regardless of immigration status, have access to in-state tuition rates and need-based financial aid when attending public colleges and universities in the state. The proposal, originally introduced as H.817, was later combined with another education-related bill (S.191) and passed overwhelmingly by both houses. The bill was transmitted to the Governor on May 24th and awaits his signature.

Representative Leonora Dodge (Chittenden-23), one of the proposal’s principal sponsors, spoke: “S.191 is a reminder that there are young people in our state that grew up here, attended Vermont schools, or came as teenagers to work on dairy farms, or came seeking asylum due to violence in their country of origin. They call Vermont home, and we are so lucky to have them.”

Following Representative Dodge, Heidy Perez Alfaro, an 11th grader at Milton High School, celebrated the bill’s pending enactment: “I am here on behalf of all those students who had to end their education after high school and cut short their dreams. With this law, they will be able to go to college, study for a profession, and help others.”

The final speaker of the press conference was Olga Cruz, a dairy worker and member of Migrant Justice. “When I got my GED three years ago and looked into continuing my studies, I was shocked by the cost and knew I would never be able to afford college without help. With this new law, higher education becomes a possibility for me and many others.”