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Updated: A&M Student Group Rebukes Perry on In-State Tuition Issue

A student organization at Gov. Rick Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M, has started a petition requesting that the governor immediately call a special legislative session to end in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

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Updated, 7:15 p.m.: A group of University of Texas students have issued their own statement condemning the Texas Aggie Conservatives' condemnation of Gov. Rick Perry and the state's practice of allowing in-state tuition for some undocumented students.

"There is nothing conservative about their petition," said Ainee Athar, a UT student and member of the University Leadership Initiative, a student group that promotes the DREAM ACT. "This is a mean-spirited action that seeks to punish young people who are doing everything they can to succeed, despite countless obstacles."

Original Story:A conservative student organization at Gov. Rick Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M University, has started a petition requesting that the governor immediately call a special legislative session to end in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants attending Texas' public colleges and universities.

The student organization, Texas Aggie Conservatives, criticizes Perry for allowing taxpayer dollars to support illegal immigrants. The Aggie Conservatives will be collecting signatures for the petition on campus over the next week.

“It is outrageous that Texas A&M, because of Gov. Perry, is awarding those who violated the law with in-state tuition and financial aid,” said Steven Schroeder, chairman of the Texas Aggie Conservatives. “The Texas government, especially in these troubling economic times, should not be subsidizing the higher education of adults who cannot legally work in the United States."

The Tribune has placed a call to the governor's office for comment. 

The Aggie Conservatives also oppose what they see as their university's support of the federal DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legal status for some immigrants in the country illegally. Perry has said he does not support the legislation. 

On Sept. 12, 2011, Texas A&M's Department of Multicultural Services awarded Maria Fernanda Cabello, a student who is in the U.S. illegally, its “Undergraduate Student Award” as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. The award is given to a student who "demonstrates a strong commitment to education, leadership, has promoted their cultural heritage, and demonstrated advocacy regarding the general Latin@ community or particular groups within."

Justin Pulliam, an Aggie Conservatives officer who authored the 2010 Texas A&M Student Senate Bill opposing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, says that the award's original online citation noted it was to be given “in honor of students who tirelessly advocate for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors [DREAM] Act” and that the department subsequently changed it after he publicly called attention to it.

Dianne Kraft, a diversity education and curriculum specialist in the university's multicultural services department, disputed that the award was given in honor of work supporting the federal DREAM Act.  

“That was never the award's title. Ever. The Aggie Conservatives misrepresent the facts," she said. "A person that happened to be a DREAMer got an undergrad award — but she got it because she was a very high achieving student. It was up on our website for like an hour, and we took it down because it was a misnomer. One of our staff got it wrong."

Cabello came out publicly as “undocumented, unafraid and unashamed” at a Texas Dream Alliance rally held on campus in April 2011.

"That's what's a little upsetting about Rick Perry," Cabello told The Huffington Post earlier this month. "We're all very thankful that he signed the in-state tuition into law, but at the same time he says he does not support the federal DREAM Act. So we're kind of in limbo."

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