Students testify in opposition of senate bill that could repeal Texas Dream Act

Eleanor Dearman

Authors of the original Texas Dream Act, HB 1403, gathered at the Capitol on Monday to advocate for the policy — originally passed in 2001.

The bill, which is at risk of removal this session, gives undocumented students who meet certain requirements, including having lived in-state for at least three years and graduated from a Texas high school, in-state tuition at public higher education institutions. The measure first passed unanimously in 2001 with bipartisan support.

A bill proposed this session by Sen. Donna Campbell (RNew Braunfels), SB 1819, would repeal the original measure. Last week, a Senate subcommittee recommended the bill for passage in the Veteran Affairs & Military Installations Committee after a public hearing that went well into the night. On Monday, the bill passed out of the Senate committee.

Three of HB 1403’s original authors attended the hearing to support the policy’s continuance, including the primary author of the bill and former Rep Rick Noriega (D-Houston).

At the rally, Noriega said it is unfortunate that lawmakers are working to repeal the bill, and people should be reminded why the Texas DREAM Act was enacted 14 years ago.

“We are standing here to … remind ourselves and educate folks on why we did this in the first place: because it was good public policy, because it was good for the state of Texas, because it was the morally right thing to do,” Noriega said.

Former State Representative Carl Isett (R-Lubbock), a co-author of HB 1403, said in-state tuition for undocumented students should be a policy based on principle rather than partisanship.

“It was then keeping with my idea that we should be a community or a state that gives opportunities to people to be successful,” Isett said.

Some of the students who testified at last week’s hearing attended the rally Monday.

Lizeth Urdiales, ethnic studies junior, spoke at the rally about her experiences growing up in Texas as an undocumented student and the opportunities HB 1403 granted her.

“I didn’t know HB 1403 existed until I was in the tenth grade, and that was amazing for me because I finally knew I had an opportunity to go to college — that the straight A’s I had in high school weren’t for nothing,” Urdiales said. “It led me to go to The University of Texas on a full ride scholarship.”

Cynthia Ramirez, finance and health promotion senior, said she wants legislators to know that she thinks keeping in-state tuition for undocumented students will benefit the state.

“I think we’ve really heard today that the common sense, logical thing to do that’s really best for the economy and is best for Texas families and our society in general is to keep HB 1403.