A state Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday that would repeal in-state college tuition for undocumented students.
The Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee sent the bill to the full Senate on a speedy 4-3 vote, two days after 11 hours of emotional testimony on the contentious measure.
The legislation, Senate Bill 1819, by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, repeals a 2001 provision — signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry — that allows some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. Of the 176 people who testified Monday night, five were in favor of Campbell’s bill.
Witnesses that night ranged from illegal immigrants who benefit from the law to Republicans who say the current policy makes sense economically. Tears were shed by several students and their supporters who said the current policy was essential to how far the undocumented students have advanced.
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It’s unclear what the chances are for the bill’s passage. Fewer than 60 days are left in the regular legislative session. And across the hall in the Capitol, there may not be much appetite for the measure; House Speaker Joe Straus, R- San Antonio, has said he thinks the current policy is good for Texas.
It’s unknown when the full Senate could take up the measure, but supporters of the current policy aren’t waiting. On Monday, former Republican state Rep. Carl Isett, a co-author of the 2001 bill, will join Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business and Juan Hernandez, a former aide to Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, at a news conference where they will reiterate their support for the in-state policy.
Senate Democrats have called out their GOP counterparts for sending the bill to the Veteran Affairs Committee’s border security subcommittee — instead of one on higher education or other state affairs.
“I am aware that our Senate committees don’t have jurisdictional statements, but common sense should prevail,” Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said Monday. “There is not one single piece of evidence that suggest Dreaqmers pose a threat to the border or to Texas.”