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GOP-Led Bill To Repeal Texas DREAM Act Appears Stalled, For Now

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SB1819, a bill to end the Texas DREAM Act, which has been a priority of Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, appears to be losing some momentum. At the time of this writing, SB1819 is not present in the Senate’s intent calendar, a possible indication that the Republican majority has yet to gather the votes it needs to secure its passage in the upper chamber.

Members of the Republican party have started voicing their opposition to the repeal effort, with Senator Kevin Eltife being the first member to defy the wishes of his own party.

During a sit down interview with The Texas Tribune, Mr. Eltife revealed that not only would he oppose SB1819, but that he suspected there could be Republicans that would join him in the opposition.

“I don’t speak for other Senators… I don’t know. I think there is a chance that there are other Republicans who are against repealing [the Texas DREAM Act]. I think you are punishing the wrong people [DREAMers]. The system is completely broken, the federal government has got to fix the immigration system”

Representative John Zerwas, the Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education, has also announced that he would oppose the measure should the bill make its way into his chamber.

“I think that in-state tuition is a reasonable policy… barring any other change in how we manage immigration” Mr. Zerwas stated, also during a sit down interview with The Texas Tribune. “I am a NO vote” he confirmed.

When asked about the possible trajectory for SB1819’s companion bill in the House, were the Senate to approve the measure, Mr. Zerwas foresaw the bill receiving a “fair hearing” and landing within the House State Affairs Committee.

However, before landing in the House of Representatives, SB1819 must clear the a full Senate vote.

All eyes are on Senator Kel Seliger, the Republican Chairman of the Higher Education Committee. The Amarillo Republican, who shared the stage with Mr. Zerwas during the same interview, has yet to form a position on SB1819 – citing that it was his job as chairman to facilitate the dialogue on the issue.

However, Mr. Seliger did not shy away from voicing his concerns about what repealing the Texas DREAM Act could mean for the Lone Star State.

“What does it accomplish really, if we take away in-state tuition? Keep in mind that these kids aren’t taken places up in schools that other young people need… It also assumes from a purely fiscal point of view, if we don’t let in this [undocumented] student with in-state tuition, is that spot going to be filled by somebody from out of state who is then going to pay out-of state tuition”  derailing the argument that somehow undocumented students are preventing out-of-state students, U.S. citizens or legal permanent resident, from enrolling and paying the higher rate.

Keep in mind that Mr. Seliger could be the deciding vote on whether or not SB1819 actually makes it to the Senate floor.

The state issue continues to draw national attention, as many 2016 Republican hopefuls have ties to issues of in-state tuition for undocumented students within their respective home states.

Congressman Julian Castro issued the following statement regarding SB1819:

Meanwhile, students across the state continue to denounce SB1819 via Student Government Associations and newspaper columns.

As the debate continues, Republicans in Texas need to start reading the writing in the wall.

Last Friday the Wall Street Journal profiled Artemio Muniz,  a young Texas Republican whose parents became citizens via the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. For Mr. Muniz ensuring that the Texas DREAM Act stays in place is just the first piece of a larger puzzle, as he has embarked on a journey to maintaining his Republican identity, recruiting more Latinos to the GOP, and combating the anti-immigrant sentiment that plagues his political party.

From the Wall Street Journal:

As a Republican activist eyeing an increasingly diverse electorate, Mr. Muniz sees preservation of the so-called Texas Dream Act as crucial to the GOP’s credibility among Latinos, whose growing numbers make them an important voting bloc nationally and in Texas, where they make up nearly a third of eligible voters.

“This is a mission to uphold what we believe is Republican heritage, a Republican legacy,” he told allies at a recent strategy meeting over shielding the law. “When it comes down to it, we’re going to draw a line in the sand.”

Recent studies also point to the benefits of the Texas DREAM Act. According to the 2013 Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, undocumented students compose less than 2% of enrollees at Texas Universities and Colleges, with an overwhelming majority of those student attending a community college. While data from the Center of Center for Public Policy shows that undocumented students paid $1.6 billion in state and local taxes, most of which went to support institutions of higher education across Texas.

As the clock continue to countdown to June 1st, the day the Texas Legislative session comes to a close, Republicans need to cut the rhetoric and stick to what is obvious – trying to repeal the Texas DREAM Act is costing them, their party, and presidential hopefuls the last pieces of credibility they have on immigration issues.