Immigration activist’s arrest hurts his own push for financial aid for illegal students

A student originally from Mexico, Eric Cruz Lopez was among the most visible immigration activists on the University of Connecticut campus — up until he was charged with spray-painting expletives about President Donald Trump on the walls of school buildings.

Now his arrest is hurting the push for a bill that would allow students without legal immigration status at the state’s public colleges and universities access to financial aid.

Cruz, who had testified himself in favor of the legislation, was charged on May 7 with more than 100 counts of misdemeanor vandalism. Police said he gave a statement admitting to the vandalism and offering to discuss restitution. He did not respond to requests for comment.

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The case led state House leaders to postpone a planned vote last week on legislation that would open up $165 million in institutional financial aid to students without legal status at public colleges and universities. Those students are studying under an Obama-era executive order known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which grants them special visas.

State Sen. Beth Bye, a West Hartford Democrat and co-chair of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, said she’s still hopeful lawmakers will look past the arrest and to the bigger picture.

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