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Proposed bill jeopardizes in-state tuition for immigrants

A bill proposal made by two Texas state representatives could end in-state tuition for undocumented students. | File photo

A bill proposal made by two Texas state representatives could end in-state tuition for undocumented students. | File photo

A proposed bill by a pair of Texas state representatives could jeopardize the ability for immigrant college students to receive in-state tuition. 

Since 2001, immigrant students in Texas have been eligible to receive in-state residency status. Though the ruling has been threatened by Republican lawmakers numerous times, Democrats have been able to kill the bill before it received momentum. 

It is important to remember Texas was the first state to allow immigrant students to qualify for in-state tuition in 2001, said Geoffrey A. Hoffman, the director of the UH Law Center’s immigration clinic.

“Tuition should not be based on federal immigration status,” Hoffman said. “To do otherwise would be to punish students for their parents’ action in bringing them to the U.S. when they were young children. Such punishment is antithetical to our American values.”

In 2019, State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredricksburg, was unable to push the bill past the House Higher Education Committee, which was chaired by a Democrat at the time.

“I think that the bill is incredibly thoughtless and plays on people’s prejudice against undocumented individuals,” said finance and human resources management junior Gabrielle Le.

“Undocumented students should receive in-state tuition as they live in the state, are required to get most of their high school education in the state, and have to pledge to seek legal status,” Le added.

State reps. Jeff Cason of Bedford and Bryan Slaton of Royse City, both Republicans, are beginning to work on an identical bill to allow universities to determine whether immigrant students qualify for in-state residency status.

“Texans’ tax dollars should not be used to reward and encourage illegal immigration to our state and nation,” Cason said in a statement. “As Texas taxpayers are seeing their property taxes rise, they are rightfully even more frustrated to find out that the Texas legislature has seen fit to give handouts to illegal immigrants.”

In the state of Texas, with campuses such as UH being affected, property taxes do not subsidize four-year universities.

Opponents of the proposed bill countered these claims made by Cason, arguing that a college education is not a handout, but rather a tool that will eventually result in economic prosperity for a state with an increasingly educated workforce.

“I know both undocumented students and many immigrants, which is why this bill makes me feel so outraged,” Le said.

“They are people working to better themselves, their families, and society as a whole, yet lawmakers would instead penalize them for their status just to make a name for themselves,” Le added.

Only 5-10 percent of immigrant students pursue higher education, according to the U.S Department of Education.

An increase in tuition in Texas would likely mean the number of immigrants wishing to pursue higher education would decrease, and many of these students already pursuing a degree could likely be faced with discontinuing their studies.

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