More than a decade ago, Texas became the first state to pass a law providing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. The law (House Bill 1403) passed in a landslide and became a model for similar legislation in other states.
But today in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants is a much more contentious issue—and at least two Texas legislators are hoping to overturn it.
State Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) and state Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) both filed bills this month that would exclude undocumented students from qualifying for in-state tuition.
“For the state to impose a mandate that you have to offer in-state tuition, I don’t think that’s fair to the folks going through the process legitimately from other countries and states that are trying to get into these universities and paying tuition rates three times higher than someone who is here illegally,” Larson told the Daily Texan.
Not surprisingly, undocumented students disagree. “Those of us who are undocumented and pay in-state tuition are Texans who have lived here almost all our lives,” says Diana Morales, secretary of UT’s University Leadership Initiative (a pro-immigration student group).
The new legislation is the result of a changing political climate, says UT Law professor and immigration expert Barbara Hines.
“When Bill 1403 passed, it was remarkably noncontroversial and supported by many Republicans,” says Hines, the co-director of UT’s Immigration Clinic. “That is no longer the case—we now have a lot more anti-immigrant sentiment. However, we may see comprehensive immigration reform passed in the next few years.”
Zedler and Larson are not the only lawmakers who have spoken up recently about changing the policy. State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) told the Texas Tribune in October that he also plans to file a bill seeking to overturn in-state tuition for undocumented students. “It is not intended to be harsh,” Birdwell said. “It is intended to affirm that I serve those that are citizens—black, white, pink, purple, I don’t care. Citizenship is the center of gravity.”
Read the text of Zedler’s and Larson’s bills below—and read our explainer for more on the details of in-state tuition and immigration.
Editor’s Note: The Texas Exes takes no position on whether to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants or not.
Photo courtesy Buzz Anderson.