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Texas on the Brink of Returning to Latino Education Policies that are Reminiscent of Segregation Era

Posted on 04/14/2015 @ 12:45 AM

A group of Texas lawmakers wants to strip in-state tuition from non-citizen Texas residents although the bill was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2001. Photo credit: United We Dream

By: Luis Torres, LULAC National, Director of Policy and Legislation and Steven R Sanchez, President, LULAC Council 4217 New Braunfels, Texas

*This article was originally published on April 9, 2015 in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. You can view the article on its original page here.

Passed by the Texas legislature with support from Democrats and Republicans and signed into law by then Texas Governor Rick Perry in 2001, the Texas Dream Act was once a bipartisan law. The law allows non-citizen resident students to pay in-state tuition which affects nearly 25,000 students each year. This law has permitted Texas to tap into the academic and economic potential of students who would otherwise not have been able to go to school. Unfortunately, today it has become a point of contention that threatens to make Latino education a highly partisan issue in the Lone Star State.

Repealing the Texas DREAM Act is misguided and shortsighted. It is opposed by Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, the House's highest ranking Republican, and the UT System Chancellor, William McRaven. In addition, out of 176 witnesses, 171 spoke against repealing the Texas DREAM Act, and the Senate is moving forward with the consideration of Senate Bill 1819 which would do just that.

Specifically, the bill would repeal language in the Texas Dream Act that allows high-achieving undocumented students the opportunity to pay in-state tuition. There are already many obstacles preventing students from enrolling, attending, and graduating from college. Rather than spending time trying to make it more difficult for a specific group of people to go to college, Senator Donna Campbell (R - New Braunfels) should instead consider a bill that would allow more Texas students to have a college education.

The arguments against providing in-state eligibility to high-achieving undocumented students have been readily dismissed. Claims that the law is a magnet for more immigration, a drain on the economy, and perhaps most offensive of all, an assault on the real “Texas kids” have been dismissed by experts and stakeholders alike. For example, the Center for Public Policy Priorities analyzed the numbers released by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and surmised that non-citizen resident students comprise just 1.9% of all college students who paid in-state tuition for 2013. That same report noted that only a miniscule .32% of non-citizen resident students receive any form of financial loan or other financial assistance. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board reported this year that non-citizen resident students paid $51.6 million in tuition and fees to Texas community colleges and universities in 2013. In addition, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy non-citizen resident immigrants paid over $1.6 billion in local and state taxes in 2010 alone.

Even the Texas Department of Public Safety refused to support claims by Senator Campbell that the Texas Dream Act is a magnet for illegal immigration. When asked at a recent subcommittee hearing if he could speak to the “impetus” for immigration, Director Steve McGraw answered, “No ma’am.”

In actuality, this is an attempt by Senator Campbell to use non-citizen resident students as a wedge issue to realize political gain and it is sure to fail. Although Senator Campbell has justified her bill by arguing that it puts “Texas kids first”, the reality is that it puts Texas kids first except if those Texas kids are Latino. These efforts are reminiscent of the days when white segregationists fought tooth and nail to keep children of Mexican immigrants in dilapidated, unequal, and segregated schools. LULAC was founded and organized in part to combat that type of segregation, filing critical lawsuits to end discriminatory segregation policies in the state of Texas. Today, that sentiment is back and it is manifesting itself as SB 1819. Let there be no confusion, Senator Campbell’s move will pit the state's sizable Latino population against stalwart conservative lawmakers looking to seem tough on "border security."

Say no to SB 1819 and yes to a united Lone Star State!

If you are from Texas, and want to take action now to protect the Texas DREAM Act, LULAC will send a letter to your state representative on your behalf. Fill out the necessary information here to show your support for a united Texas.

Luis Torres is the Director of Policy and Legislation for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Prior to LULAC, he served as Legislative Director for Congressman Silvestre Reyes, former-Chairman of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and was one of a handful of Latino Legislative Directors in the U.S. House of Representatives. Additionally, Torres also served as a high school teacher in Washington, D.C. as part of Teach for America. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Sociology from Georgetown University, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from American University.

Steven Sanchez is the President of LULAC Council 4217 of New Braunfels, Texas. LULAC Council 4217 is active in the community of New Braunfels, organizing the Relay for Life in partnership with the American Cancer Society; and mobilizing its membership around other charitable activities. Currently, LULAC Council 4217 is organizing a community event entitled, Mayfest, which will feature Latino culture, cuisine, and music. LULAC is the largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization in the country.


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