The Texas legislative sessions adjourned on June 1, and the immigrant community got the news they had been waiting for.
The push to repeal the Texas Dream Act was defeated, securing in-state tuition as a benefit that undocumented students across Texas can continue to take advantage of. This is significant victory, especially for the state that pioneered the concept of in-state tuition for undocumented students.
We can learn a lot from Texas organizers and immigrant youth about what it took to derail this effort, led by Texas Republicans, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Texas Senator Donna Campbell.
Just last week, America’s Voice and partner organizations spoke with two beneficiaries of the Texas Dream Act. Both Karla Perez, President of the U. Houston Youth Empowerment Alliance, and Julieta Garibay, co-founder of United We Dream, shared with us how the Texas Dream Act has impacted the immigrant right movement and what tactics were employed in order to ensure that it stayed in place:
Above all, the defeat of SB1819 displayed the clear cut fractures within the GOP rank and file when it comes to the issue of immigration. The cherry on top of this victory was that the stage to demonstrate such divides no other than the state of Texas — a state that prides itself in its deep conservative values, sustains a significant Republican majority at the legislative level, and is completely paranoid when it comes to immigrants.
So where did Republicans go wrong?
If you recall some of our past coverage on the Texas Dream Act, Republicans pledged to stand against the measure in the Texas Senate. While the Speaker of the Texas House, Joe Strauss, also a Republican, mentioned early on that the repeal effort would go nowhere in his chamber.
In plain terms: the votes to pass SB1819 were not there. Nor was the support.
This was all confirmed in a recent interview where State Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D) and State Rep. Jason Villalba (R) told WFAA that “the Speaker made sure it didn’t happen” and that there “was no appetite” in the house for such a bill.
Interestingly enough, during a separate segment of that interview, WFAA also interviewed Cathy Adams, president of a Tea Party affiliated group. Even she admitted that the votes were not there to pass SB1819 — neither in the House nor in the Senate.
You know you have had a sound strategy when even the Tea Party is willing admit defeat. However, Cathy Adams continued that the reason the both bills failed was largely due in part to “businesses taking advantage of those who are here illegally” and blames the business industry for wanting to keep the “status quo.”
It is amazing to what lengths somebody will go in order to spread misinformation — considering that beneficiaries of the Texas Dream Act are also beneficiaries of President Obama’s DACA program, which allows undocumented youth to work legally in the United States; therefore, contribute back to the state of Texas.
Cathy Adams’ tone deaf approach at this issue is by no means surprising, as it mimics that of Republicans running for the Presidency.
It would be an understatement to say that many these candidates have mixed views on the issue of immigration. When it comes to talking points, it took building a translator in order to cut through the rhetoric and get truth as to what their plans are on the issue of immigration.
Already Marco Rubio has denied that he has flip-flopped on the issue, Jeb Bush compared DACA+ and DAPA to the actions of a Latin American Dictator, while Scott Walker has just thrown his hand up in the air when it comes to the issue.
Note – these are just a few of the comments from a few of the GOP Presidential hopefuls.
As we continue to move into 2016, it would serve well for Republicans who are dragging their feet on immigration to take lessons from Texas to heart.
Meanwhile, the push to defend the victories scored by our community will continue. Meanwhile, Senator Campbell has already pledged to try and repeal the Texas Dream Act during the next legislative session.