The Texas DREAM Act – Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors – gave in-state tuition benefits to non-citizens who lived in Texas for at least three years before graduating high school, so long as they indicated their intent to apply for citizenship as soon as possible. Signed into law in 2001, the act was the first of its kind, but it would be followed by similar measures in 17 other states.
Under Senate Bill 1819 – currently under debate in the Texas Senate – colleges would be required to charge undocumented students out-of-state tuition, potentially doubling the cost of a college degree.
Supporters of the bill say it would give college privileges only to American citizens. Opponents say it is an anti-immigrant measure that will encourage students to drop out. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made a campaign promise in 2014 to repeal the law while Gov. Greg Abbott said the “flawed” legislation needs to be reworked.
Miguel Levario is a Texas Tech University associate professor with specialties in U.S. history, borderlands history, race, immigration and Chicana/Mexican-American history. His published works include the book “Militarizing the Border: When Mexicans Became the Enemy,” which explains current tensions and controversy over immigration and law enforcement issues.
Miguel Levario, associate professor of history, (806) 281-8343 or [email protected]
• The current initiative to reverse Texas’ current standing on allowing undocumented Texas residents to apply for in-state tuition marks a shift in the Republican Party. The statute was instituted by Republican governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry and only recently has come under fire. • Undocumented residents are still residents. That is, they pay taxes that support public services, so they should be able to use those services when they are needed.• The 1982 Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe allowed undocumented children to attend public school. Several key arguments can be extended to the DREAMers’ situation. The state would spend more money on not educating a specific class of residents than it would if it provided them access to education, in this case higher education. • The Texas Tribune hosted a higher education summit at Texas Tech in January. The panelists, which included Texas Tech University Chancellor Robert Duncan, former University of Texas-Brownsville President Julieta Garcia, Texas State Sen. Charles Perry and others, fielded a number of questions regarding the accessibility of higher education, specifically cost, admissions, facilities, etc. Most, if not all the panelists, agreed higher education in Texas should be accessible, including Sen. Perry.
• “We are witnessing a Republican Party in Texas that is doing a 180-degree turn when it comes to protecting undocumented Texas residents. The stand against undocumented Texas residents is becoming harsher, especially by newly elected officials despite the fact that Texas is home to the second largest undocumented community in the country.”• “I want to emphasize I use the term undocumented Texas residents because they are Texas residents in the eyes of our tax codes, and more importantly, our communities. Despite their legal status, they are subject to and pay property taxes, gasoline taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes, etc. all of which support government entities like public schools, county hospitals, etc. In other words, if taxes levied by the state don’t discriminate based on legal status, then why should governmental services dependent on state tax revenue discriminate who they will serve? It is flat out wrong.”• “Excluding undocumented Texas residents from higher education does not improve the overall quality of higher education. In fact, as many universities have demonstrated, a diverse student population greatly enhances the overall university experience and value, especially in a globalized economy and society.”• “Denying undocumented Texas residents in-state tuition, which I argue they paid for, is not only discriminatory but it also infringes on the core democratic values of our state and country. Moreover, it does the state no good to deny an individual access to higher education.”