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Rick Perry's Dream Act
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Rick Perry supported the modest Texas Dream Act, whose name has unfortunately been libeled by the Democrats' national Dream Act that is akin to the Texas law on meth and steroids, and the Democratic Party's version offers amnesty too. The Texas Dream Act simply offers children of illegal immigrants, who have completed at least three years of Texas high school before graduation, entrance to any Texas state school at in-state tuition rates. The law demands the beneficiary apply for Permanent Resident status as soon as able to do so.
In contrast, the federal Dream Act, which has yet to pass, provides scholarships and taxpayer direct subsidies and amnesty for all illegal aliens wishing to attend college in America.
The Texas law is very narrowly defined. Less than 10,000 students attended college in Texas state universities under the law's provisions in the Fall 2007 semester. There were over 1.1 million students in the Texas state university system during the same time period (source: "Residency and In-State Tuition," Sep. 2008, in *pdf, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board). The Weekly Standard reports more recent numbers:
It turns out that of the 1.8 million students enrolled in Texas higher-ed, only 16,476 students are illegals (the state refers to these kids as “affidavit students”). Of those, 12,028 go to two-year community colleges. For the most part these schools have noncompetitive admissions and hardly any out-of-state students. A vanishingly small number go to the state’s competitive flagship schools: The University of Texas has 612 of them; A&M has 362.
In reality, we are talking a little less than 1,000 illegal alien students at the two flagship state universities in Texas!
The Washington Post claims the Texas law costs Texas about $40 million is lost tuition revenue. That number may be high because without in-state tuition, less of the children of illegal immigrants would go to college, and Texas would still be denied the revenue. To put things into perspective, $40 million, if it's a true number, is a rain drop in the $80 billion state budget.
Upon graduation, Texas will have already spent around $100,000 for a student's grade school and high school education. Many Texas taxpayers feel that this modest law helps to protect that investment.
And to make the point clear, the law narrowly targets children of illegal immigrants who were not born in the U.S. If an illegal immigrant delivers a baby on U.S. soil, that child is automatically deemed a U.S. citizen and is already entitled to in-state tuition, no matter who his or her parents are.
According to the 2001 law (HB 1403 *pdf download of the law here), for illegal alien students to qualify for in-state tuition, those students must have:
- resided in Texas with a parent or guardian while attending high school in Texas,
- graduated from a public or private high school or received a GED in Texas,
- resided in Texas for the three years leading to graduation or receipt of a GED, and
- provided their institutions a signed affidavit indicating an intent to apply for permanent resident status as soon as able to do so
In 2005, Texas Senate Bill 1528 amended the older law. Then, under the newer standards, to qualify for in-state tuition, the student must have:
- lived in Texas the 3 years leading up to high school graduation or the receipt of a GED; and
- resided in Texas the year prior to enrollment in an institution of higher education (which could overlap the 3-year period).
- In addition, if the student was not a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident, he/she had to file an affidavit with his/her institution, indicating an intent to apply for Permanent Resident status as soon as able to do so.
Both laws were passed by an overwhelming majority of the Texas legislature, in 2001 and again in 2005. According to a guest column written by Mark P. Jones (Fellow in Political Science at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University), in The Texas Tribune (source: "The GOP Flipped, but Perry Hasn't"):
In the  Senate, the bill passed by a 27-to-3 vote, with 12 Republicans and 15 Democrats in favor, and three Republicans against. Seven of the 12 Republicans who supported the bill continue to serve today in the Texas Senate, with three (Sens. John Carona, Troy Fraser and Florence Shapiro) among only eight senators (out of a total of 19 Republicans) to receive awards for their legislative voting record from the conservative watchdog group Empower Texans. Also voting yes was Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples, who was then a senator.
The final version of the bill received even stronger Republican backing in the House, with 64 Republicans joining 66 Democrats to vote yes (130 total) versus only two dissenting votes (both Republicans). In the vote on the original version of HB 1403 on April 23, 67 Republicans joined 75 Democrats to approve the bill, with one Republican voting no. Ten years later, 23 of the 64 Republicans (along with two Democrats who would later switch to the Republican Party) who voted yea on the final version of the bill continued in office, as did two Republicans who voted for the bill on April 23 but were absent on May 24.
(source: "The GOP Flipped, but Perry Hasn't"
Detractors of the law, passed by an overwhelming majority of the Texas legislature—94 percent of the Republican legislators cast yea votes, and only 6 percent voted nay— and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry in 2001, would say that an in-state tuition benefit constitutes a “magnet” that draws illegals across the border. That argument does not take into account that even in-state tuition costs are high enough already. The thought that someone would risk their lives and the lives of their children to sneak across the border to pay $15,000 per year to attend Texas A&M as a Texas resident is silly.
The Texas in-state tuition benefit is a boon for junior colleges and community colleges particularly. A 2007 legislative study conducted for the Texas Legislature that year when those lawmakers were considering repealing the law determined that the in-state tuition benefit was a $3 million annual revenue gain across all colleges and tech schools in Texas. Here's the pertainent part of the study:
According to the Legislative Budget Board, THECB estimates that 4,145 full-time student equivalents would be affected by the bill in 2007. It further assumes that 99 percent of such students at universities and health related institutions would choose not to enroll, while 60 percent of students at Texas State Technical Colleges and 40 percent of community college students would choose not to enroll. On this basis, the potential number of students who would not enroll would equal 2,417 in fiscal 2010. Although some tuition losses would be offset by increased tuition paid by those students who continued their education, net losses in tuition are estimated to be about $3 million in fiscal 2008, about $3 million in fiscal 2009, with a similar loss in succeeding years.
Governor Rick Perry, in an interview with the Web site, Right Wing News explained why the law is popular in Texas:
There were a number of reasons the bill received widespread support among conservatives. Importantly, it has never had a cost to Texas taxpayers. In fact, our institutions of higher learning would actually lose tens of millions of dollars in lost tuition payments if the law were repealed [The 2007 study cited above on this page is a bit dated. Tuition costs are much higher four years later, and there are more students on the program that benefits, essentially, junior colleges and community colleges. The cost of repealing the law may very well be over $10 million today, as Gov. Perry indicates. - eds].
And it would lower the odds that these students would receive subsidized health care or end up in prison. Protecting taxpayers was a serious concern, given that a Supreme Court decree already requires taxpayers to pay for K-12 education for undocumented students.
The Texas Dream Act deals with reality, not ideology. Sure, it would be nice if the federal government really guarded the Texas-Mexico border, and that it was successful in deporting all illegal immigrants, but it isn't. The illegal immigration problem is not going to be solved any time in Rick Perry's term as governor. The Texas Dream act is a practical method to promote productive citizenship of a small number of people who would otherwise never realize their potential, or contribute to the general welfare of Texas and the nation as a whole.
Texas is not the only state in the union to offer this. According to NumbersUSA, Washington, California, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, and New York offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrant children. Arkansas has pending legisilation to do the same (source: "Map of States with In-State Tuition Laws").
Would you rather give those kids a chance, and a way to help make our country better, or sentence them to second-class citizenship for the rest of their lives, through no fault of their own?