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Juan Escalante: Fight for the Texas Dream Act Continues

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Cross-posted from Huffington Post:

The battle of the Texas Dream Act continues.

A bill known as SB1819, sponsored by Texas Republican Senators Donna Campbell, Tom Creighton, and Lois Kolkhorst, is headed for the Senate floor to be heard and voted upon.

A priority of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who promised to repeal the law that has served as a national model for states that have granted in-state tuition for undocumented students, the bill has been fast tracked by Republicans as the Texas Legislative session approaches its final weeks.

Last Monday, the bill was heard in the Senate’s subcommittee on border security, which is composed of two Republican members and one lone Democrat. What started off as a regular committee meeting quickly turned into hours of public testimony — all of which concluded with over 170 undocumented students, educators and allies passionately testifying against the measure.

SB1819 was voted out of the subcommittee that night, strictly along party lines, and was also passed out of the Veterans Affairs & Military Installations Committee on Wednesday, which is chaired by the bill’s main sponsor Donna Campbell.

However, opponents of the this bill are not giving up the fight. Already the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives has signalled his opposition to the bill, while the El Paso Times reported that SB 1819 could be stalled during debate in the Senate.

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, on Wednesday told Quorum Report that he would not support an anti-Dream Act measure introduced by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and supported by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Under Senate rules, 19 of the 31 members must sign a petition to allow a bill to be considered by the full Senate.

If all 11 Democrats and Eltife decline to sign, that means only one other Republican is needed to block Campbell’s bill.

Senator Eltife confirmed his opposition during an interview with the Texas Tribune, and revealed that he suspected that there could be other Republican Senators who would oppose the bill.

“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”

SB1819 is expected to be heard in the Texas Senate floor as soon as next Wednesday. Activists like Karla Perez, an undocumented student at the University of Houston and President of the Youth Empowerment Alliance, provided the following comment when asked about her thoughts on the recent developments:

After the passage of SB1819 through the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security and the Veteran Affairs and Military Installments Committee this week, we find hope in the recent statements of Senator Kevin Eltife (R-SD 1) that he will vote against SB1819. We hope that other Republican Senators will stand on the right side of history with Texas DREAMers and also oppose these efforts to repeal our in-state tuition, if they truly have Texas’ best interests at heart.

The repeal effort has received some national attention, as there are implications for Republican candidates who seek the GOP Nomination for President.

Former Governor Rick Perry, who signed the Texas Dream Act into law in 2001, called Republicans who did not believe in providing undocumented students with a chance at an education “heartless,” back in 2011. But he has since abandoned the issue, stating that he is no longer the Governor of Texas and that he remains committed to border security first.

Notably absent from the debate is George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush, who was just awarded the inaugural Latino Leadership Award at the University of Texas. Mr. Bush defended the measure last year, but public comments on this repeal effort have yet to emerge.

As the clock continues to tick, expectations grow on what the future of the Texas Dream Act will be. Activist are starting off the week with an event that gathers the original sponsors of the Texas Dream Act, launching what could develop into a week long effort to make sure they are still provided access to colleges and universities across the Lone Star State.