Under laws approved recently in Colorado and Oregon, immigrant students will qualify for resident tuition rates, reducing how much they pay for school by more than two-thirds in some cases. Such DREAM Act proposals have failed repeatedly in both states in recent years.
In Minnesota, such a tuition plan easily passed the state Senate on Wednesday, hours ahead of an immigrants' rights rally that attracted hundreds to the Capitol. The measure faces several legislative hurdles, and it has been rejected twice since 2007. But for the first time the proposal has support from the state's governor, a Democrat who took office in 2011 following a two-term Republican who opposed the plan.
Another immigrants' rights provision advancing in at least a dozen states allows people in the U.S. without legal permission to obtain a driver's card. Besides Oregon, lawmakers in Illinois and Maryland passed such legislation this year, and experts predict that other states also will pass plans.
In Colorado, lawmakers on Wednesday advanced such a proposal. The legislation is likely to become law, and the House committee vote came as a May Day immigration rally drew hundreds of people to its Capitol in support of such measures despite a spring snow storm.
Notably, Texas lawmakers introduced a version of the policy just two years after passing a slate of bills tightening immigration regulations.
"This driver's license stuff is remarkable because it was such a political issue just a few years ago," said Jonathan Blazer of the national American Civil Liberties Union.
The business community — including Stone's Oregon Association of Nurseries — has been a strong force behind the state's new driving law. They say it's an economic issue and that the proposal creates job opportunities that will boost the state.
But the changes are also politically motivated, Blazer said. To his point, voters in Colorado, Oregon and Minnesota all supported President Barack Obama in November and handed control of their statehouses to Democrats.