Texas was first in the nation to pass a state-level DREAM Act. Now, if Republican legislators have their way, it could be first to repeal it.
Passed by a bipartisan vote in the legislature, and then signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2001, the DREAM Act has allowed thousands of undocumented students access to in-state tuition rates (the San Antonio Express estimates that more than 24,000 students have been able to benefit from the law).
But now nearly 15 years later, the Republican-led Texas Senate is considering a bill, SB 1819, that could permanently erase the Texas DREAM Act from the books and kill the college dreams of thousands of young students.
As you can imagine, DREAMers aren’t letting this happen without a fight. Yesterday, a large crowd attended the Senate subcommittee hearing on SB 1819, with an overwhelming number staying until past midnight to testify against repeal. In fact, of the 176 people who testified about SB 1819, only five spoke out in favor of repeal.
Appearing at the hearing in her purple graduation gown, Lissette Moreno said she was the first DREAMer to testify nearly 15 years earlier during the creation of the Texas Dream Act. Moreno, 31, has since earned two college degrees thanks to the DREAM Act. But on Monday, she was back to defend it. “Unfortunately, it’s in danger of being repealed,” she said, adding that she could barely make ends meet to put herself through college. “Two jobs, sleeping in the car, and all because I was determined to fulfill my dreams.”
Elise Foley highlighted other DREAMers who have been helped by the law, with some even moved to the point of tears:
Sandra Tovar, 27, began to cry when testifying before the state senators about her experience. She graduated from Texas A&M in 2011 and is now working under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has allowed more than 100,000 Texas Dreamers to work legally. Tovar said it’s important to her that younger Dreamers get the same opportunities.
“Please believe that when we Dreamers say that we want to give back to our community, we mean it,” Tovar testified. “Please do not take this away.”
“This law opened the doors to what I thought was an impossible dream,” said Loren Campos, who recently earned his master’s degree in engineering from the University of Houston. Campos joined dozens of others testifying against Campbell’s bill.
The Texas Association of Business said the current law is good for the state’s economy and necessary if Texas is to keep up with the demand for well-qualified workers.
“It’s a wise investment,” said A.J. Rodriguez of the association.
Still, despite the personal testimonies and overwhelming support for the DREAM Act, the subcommittee voted for repeal by a party line, and the legislation now moves on to full committee for consideration.
SB 1819 is expected to easily pass the Senate, but it could face a tougher challenge in the House, where the Speaker has stated he thinks that the Texas DREAM Act is “good policy” for the state and students. Nevertheless, Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated he would not veto the repeal were it to come to his desk, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (who once infamously declared his own anti-immigrant sentiments by claiming that immigrants bring “Third World diseases”) widely campaigned on an anti-DREAM Act platform.
As we wrote yesterday, with the 2016 Presidential election approaching, repeal could have deep implications that stretch further than Texas.
While Rick Perry made the DREAM Act a reality in 2001, fellow Texan Ted Cruz has staked out his political career on an anti-immigrant platform. Another Republican expected to run, Chris Christie, signed New Jersey’s DREAM Act into law in 2013. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have in the past supported in-state tuition for DREAMers, and Rand Paul’s office, when questioned by the New York Times on the Republican efforts to repeal DREAM in Texas, simply offered no comment.
But with Paul’s announcement today that he’s decided to run in 2016, he’ll have to take a position on stopping the college dreams of thousands of young immigrants sooner or later.