Texans need to stand up for the Texas DREAM Act

Leslie Tufino

A Texas lawmaker has filed a bill that would bar undocumented students in Texas from receiving in-state tuition at colleges and universities. Texas Rep. Kyle Biedermann is proposing this bill under the guise that such benefits are “magnet policies” for illegal immigration.

Just two months ago Fredericksburg Republican Biedermann said, “We’re educating them with K-12 right now. And they can be educated in college. Why should we give them a deduction or a subsidy at taxpayer expense when other Texans could use the funds also to get educated?”

But Biedermann failed to address the moral and economic benefits of allowing all Texans access to higher education, including undocumented students.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed HB 1403 — the Texas DREAM Act — in 2001. The law makes undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state tuition if they have lived in Texas for three years, graduated from high school or received a GED and are seeking legal status. Texas became the first state in the country to pass a law like this.

Many of the undocumented immigrants that benefit from the Texas DREAM Act were brought to the United States as children and do not recognize any other country as their home. They have lived in Texas for years and share the same goals and aspirations as their classmates. They feel as American — and as Texan — as their peers. But unlike many classmates, undocumented students are uncertain about their futures because of their legal status.

If these children have been educated in Texas for K-12, as Biedermann noted, then why should they stop there?

During a 2011 GOP primary debate, Rick Perry famously said, “If you say that we should not educate children who come into our state for no other reason than that they’ve been brought there through no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.”  As a social work student, community activist and aspiring immigration attorney, I agree with Gov. Perry. 

But the Texas DREAM Act is more than a moral obligation to our students. It is essential to our state’s economic prosperity.

According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, undocumented immigrants in Texas pay about $1.5 billion in state and local taxes annually. These taxes help support public institutions and higher education in Texas.

With the ability to attend and finance their post-secondary education, undocumented students have more purchasing power. In 2015, Texas immigrants earned nearly $119 billion in wages, with their purchasing power estimated to be between $95.5 billion and $100 billion.

Repealing the Texas DREAM Act would more than triple the cost of tuition for our undocumented classmates. The 86th legislative session began this month. As their peers, we must continue supporting our undocumented students by preserving the Texas DREAM Act.

Tufino is a social work senior from Austin