An effort by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, to require undocumented Texas students to pay out-of-state tuition rates sparked emotional debate in the Senate today, and forced Birdwell to pull the measure down.
Birdwell tacked the amendment, which would have required undocumented students to pay much higher out-of-state tuition rates, onto an education finance bill. Those currently paying in-state tuition would have been grandfathered in under the measure, but the amendment could have affected some 16,000 students.
“You’re putting a dagger in the hearts and the hopes of these students,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, the first senator to voice concern. “...We’re punishing the students, the children, because of a transgression of their parents.”
Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, argued: “They’re in college trying to make something of themselves, and if we in any way interfere, they won’t get their education.”
Birdwell said constituents have complained about paying tuition for illegal residents. He said his intention was “fairness for the Texas taxpayers.”
But Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, said that argument was “illogical” because undocumented residents are taxpayers. Uresti said he saw students sobbing after the federal government failed to pass the DREAM Act, and now "what’s happened at the federal level is filtering down here with your amendment.”
After senators took a moment to conference, Birdwell withdrew the amendment “for the continued survival” of the education finance reform bill.