Lawmakers in Texas are readying a bill that would repeal the state’s DREAM Act, a law seen by many as a prime driver behind the illegal immigration crisis.
Texas’ DREAM Act, in effect since 2001, lets illegal immigrants obtain in-state college benefits if they’ve been in the state for three years, graduated high school or received GEDs, or if they have a pending immigration case.
Republican Donna Campbell of New Braunfels and two other senators last month filed SB 1819, which would “reverse the law that allows qualified students to pay in-state college tuition,” according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
Signed into law with unanimous support 14 years ago, former Governor Rick Perry said the legislation currently being debated by the Senate Sub-Committee on Border Security gives children brought to the state “through no fault of their own” a much-deserved education.
“We need to be educating these children because they will become a drag on our society…Texas voted on it. And I still support it today,” Perry said during the 2011 republican presidential debates.
But elected officials facing heat over the recent immigrant influx say the law gives an unfair advantage over actual permanent residents, and provides yet another incentive motivating foreigners to illegally come to the US.
“It’s a question of fairness to American citizens,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has stated. The former senator last year promised to overturn the legislation if he won election, asserting he was opposed to “taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants” in a fundraising letter.
“The magnet that drives illegal immigration is partly caused by providing benefits like in-state tuition to those who have violated federal and state laws,” Rep. Mark Keough told the Houston Chronicle earlier this year.
While not as strong on the issue, newly-elected Texas governor Greg Abbott has said, “The way the law is structured is flawed and it has to be fixed,” and last year indicated he wouldn’t veto a repeal of the law.
Another state representative, Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, has introduced a similar bill – HB 209 – also seeking to “put TX kids 1st.”
— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) November 10, 2014
Supporters, activists and students rallied at the Texas capitol in Austin today to comment in opposition of the repeal during the public hearing portion of the bill process.
Former Dallas representative Domingo Garcia, who co-authored the DREAM Act, has called republican efforts “un-Christian, un-Texan, un-American, and it’s a slap at the Statue of Liberty and everything she stands for, what America stands for and that’s why we have to defend it.”
Analysts say the bill will face opposition in the House, but expect it to sail through the republican-controlled Senate.