Immigration advocates and critics alike are preparing for a legislative debate on a bill that would end in-state college tuition for students whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally.
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, filed House Bill 209 in November. As the 2015 legislative session cranks up, immigration proponents are pushing back. A rally against the measure is set for Wednesday on the south steps of the Texas Capitol.
“This is an education issue, not an immigration issue,” said Jorge Baldor, founder and executive director of the Dallas-based website KeepHB1403.com.
House Bill 1403, passed in 2001, allows students who have lived in Texas at least three years leading up to high school graduation to pay in-state tuition even if their families had no legal status.
The question has surfaced before, but this year newly elected Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Stickland have promised to stop the practice.
“I look forward to the debate and look forward to passing the bill,” Stickland said, adding that it was a campaign promise he made to constituents in District 92.
“It was very clear that illegal immigration was a huge concern,” he said. “We have to turn off all the magnets that we can that are attracting folks here.”
Immigration proponents argue that eliminating in-state tuition will erase an incentive to go to college. Immigrant high school students disillusioned with the high cost might not complete their educations, Baldor said, and that would be felt in the Texas workforce.
He said the issue involves a small segment of the Texas college population — 20,049 such students in fiscal 2012, of about 1.46 million that year
“They are being bullied because they are not a voting population,” Baldor said.
Both sides are taking the issue online.
On Dec. 20, Stickland posted on Facebook that he was working on the committee presentation. “It is time to put our kids first,” he said. On Nov. 10, he tweeted: “It’s time 2 put TX kids 1st. That is why I have filed a bill 2 end in-state college tuition 4 illegals.”
KeepHB1403.com showcases the educational accomplishments of immigrant students from North Texas, along with information and plans for students, community and business leaders to unite. Students from the University of Texas at Arlington said they plan to attend the rally thus next week to support family members and friends who would be affected.
“We are definitely going to go and give our voice,” said Jarryd Willis, a graduate student at UT Arlington who started the campus immigration rights group Dream Factory. “You always have to defend civil-rights victories.”
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675
What: The legislative summit and rally to preserve in-state college tuition for college students who don’t have legal immigration status.
When: Summit begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Texas Capitol, 1100 Congress Ave. in Austin. Rally begins at 2 p.m. on the south steps of the Capitol.