Patrick said he sent a letter to the state's Board of Higher Education, directing it to revise its policy immediately to allow illegal immigrant students to pay the Massachusetts resident rates for state colleges and universities if they get work permits and satisfy other requirements, The Boston Globe reported Monday.
"It's a step in the right direction, but it's not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform. We still need that," Patrick told reporters at the state Capitol Monday.
Five months ago, the Obama administration initiated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that gives immigrants age 30 and younger two-year reprieves from deportation and work permits if they were under 16 when arrived in the United States, had no criminal record and met other requirements. They also must pay a $465 fee.
Patrick's decision, announced last week, drew criticism from both parties, the Globe said.
State Rep. Bradley H. Jones Jr., the state House GOP leader, said in a statement, "The implementation of in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants should be stopped immediately. Regardless of whether or not the governor and I agree on this issue, the topic at hand should be how best to provide an affordable education for all of Massachusetts' residents."
State Sen. Richard Moore, a Democrat, said he was concerned that illegal immigrants might deny slots at public colleges from students who are legal residents of Massachusetts.
Jones and Moore also accused the governor of unilaterally imposing policy rather than work through the legislative process, the Globe said.
Patrick said he has the legal basis for his policy decision. Since any Massachusetts resident with a work permit is entitled to in-state tuition rates, his order clarifies that these young illegal immigrants, as long as they have a work permit, will be covered under existing policy, he said.