Texas considers repealing DREAM Act
- New bills could change tuition policies for illegal immigrants.
- Illegal immigrants dressed in caps and gowns, as well as other activists, protested the Senate bill at the state capitol last week.
Texas state legislators are fighting to repeal the 2001 DREAM Act passed by former governor, Republican Rick Perry.
On April 7, a bill written by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) that would require illegal immigrants pay out-of-state tuition passed a subcommittee vote 2-1 and has now moved on to the full committee.
More than 100 illegal immigrants—including college students wearing caps and gowns—and activists protested at the capitol the day before the vote.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) avoided taking a definitive stance on the debate over the Texas DREAM Act while campaigning in 2014. However, in a debate with Democratic opponent Wendy Davis, Abbott did state he would not veto the law’s repeal if it passes in the state legislature.
Abbott’s campaign spokesperson, Matt Hirsch, told the Texas Tribune that Abbott believes “the law as structured is flawed and it must be reformed.”
Support for the current statute, passed in 2001, dropped significantly as state lawmakers and the public realized the impracticality of requiring students to apply for permanent residency.
In an interview with the Austin American-Statesman, Perry qualified the Texas DREAM Act, explaining that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) follows up to verify if students have applied for permanent residency.
Suzanne Marchman, a spokeswoman for TEA, dissented. She said the TEA does not oversee post-secondary education laws.
"Our agency doesn't oversee any of that,” she told Politifact.
Catherine Frazier, deputy press secretary for the Perry campaign, corrected Perry’s remarks, putting the responsibility of following up on students in the hands of the universities. The University of Texas at Austin assistant director of admissions Deana Williams also refuted Perry’s statements, stating there is no law requiring the university to do so.
Similar to Campbell’s legislation, House Bill 209, introduced by State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), is an attempt to revise current law to define “resident” as an American citizen who has established and maintained a domicile in Texas for at least one year.
“Representative Stickland is trying to turn off the magnets that attract illegal immigrants here,” Stickland’s Chief of Staff Tim Hardin explained to Campus Reform. “Immigration is a top priority, especially for states that border Mexico.”
Illegal immigrants attending four-year Texas universities currently pay a state-mandated base tuition of $50 per credit hour as opposed to the $327 per credit hour paid by their out-of-state counterparts. According to MSNBC, the Texas DREAM Act currently benefits 25,000 students a year.
According to Breitbart, Stickland’s constituents called for an “end [to] these incentives to come over here and break the law.” Stickland thus pledged to “take care of Texans first.”
“We’re fighting on a national as well as a state level,” said Hardin.
Eighteen states allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates. If Texas repeals the DREAM Act, it will be only the second state to rescind those tuition benefits.
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