HB 413 Controversy follows proposed tuition bill

A proposed Texas House Bill that could prohibit undocumented residents from qualifying for in-state tuition, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, is drawing ire from Democratic lawmakers.

House Bill 413, authored by State Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), is the latest attempt by legislators to override the 2001 Texas Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act signed into law by former Gov. Rick Perry.

But the fight to end in-state tuition for undocumented residents is a point of political discussion that other states across the country are continuing to fight.

If adopted, HB 413 would require undocumented Texas college students to pay out of state tuition costs. Universities, which are partially funded by state taxes, often require out-of-state students to pay higher tuition rates than in-state students.

“It’s very disappointing to hear, especially coming from one of my district neighbors,” said Dist. 45 State Representative-elect Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood). “if this piece of legislation is passed, it will have a dramatic impact at Texas State University, particularly the DREAM-ers.”

Historically, states like Texas have given opportunities for DREAM-ers to excel in public education.

When DACA was announced by the Obama Administration in 2012, it allowed undocumented residents the opportunity to receive work permits and social security numbers to enroll in schools.

Prior to DACA, the DREAM act allowed undocumented residents to attend a public university if the individual “lived in Texas for three years, sought legal status and were a graduate of a high school or earned a GED.”

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, Arizona, Missouri, Georgia and Indiana all have legislation banning undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition. Additionally, Alabama and South Carolina have both completely banned undocumented students from attending public universities.

A spokesperson for State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) said the senator will not make a statement in support or opposition of the proposed bill at this time.

“Senator Campbell said she always wants to do her homework before commenting on a piece of legislation,” the spokesperson told the Hays Free Press and News-Dispatch.

But newly elected Democratic House leaders are not convinced the bill is something Texas needs to focus on in the upcoming legislative session, which starts in January.

Zwiener said there are a lot of Democrats at the capitol who are worried about the implications of this particular bill; Zwiener said it could be a distraction for other issues.

“If we are fixated on a divisive bill like this, it will distract us from our efforts to reform finance in public education,” Zwiener said.

Zwiener cited overhauling Texas’ education finance system as a top priority for new lawmakers in Austin.

“I hope we don’t attack an already vulnerable population,” she said. “We need to keep our eye on the prize and I think Texas voters have made it clear about how they feel about these issues.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson at Texas State University said the institution does not track the number of undocumented students enrolled.

However, according to the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, an estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools across the United States.

Of that 65,000, around five to 10 percent will enroll in college or university. Additionally, the university said only one to three percent of those undocumented students who attend university will graduate.

“This really does affect Hays County,” Zwiener said. “The university has an undocumented population, many of whom came to the United States when they were children. This will hurt the Dreamers, and that’s not something we need to be doing right now.”

Biedermann did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

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