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Texas To Tweak Tuition Rule For Illegal Immigrants

AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas law allowing some illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates, a flashpoint issue that helped doom Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign for president, is set to be tweaked Thursday to remind students they promised to seek legal status.

Thursday’s vote on a rule change by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is a small step toward putting more pressure on those students to follow up on their pledge.

The change won’t end the tuition break or the students’ ability to qualify; only the Legislature can do that. But it will require schools to be more active in pushing them toward gaining legal status by sending them annual reminders and encouraging them to contact federal authorities.

Advocates for immigrants say the reminders are unnecessary and could prompt students to place themselves in jeopardy of deportation if they contact federal authorities without first seeking legal advice.

Since 2001, Texas has allowed students who are in the U.S. illegally to qualify for cheaper, in-state tuition rates at public universities if they attend high school in Texas for at least three years before they graduate. Those students must also sign an affidavit saying they plan to seek legal status.

Perry’s refusal to backtrack on his support for the law angered conservatives and tea party activists in the state and nationally who consider it a benefit reserved for illegal immigrants at the expense of U.S. citizens.

According to the higher education board, more than 16,000 students qualified under the law in the 2009-10 school year, the most recent year for which complete data were available. Of those, about 4,400 attended a public university and about 12,000 attended community or technical college.

The rule change requires schools to keep the affidavits on file and remind the students of their pledge every year they are enrolled and upon graduation. Students are not required to respond.

Board spokesman Dominic Chavez insisted the rule change is not because of the flare-up over immigration politics in the Republican primaries but acknowledged the issue got “white hot” when Perry was still in the race.

The issue has come up several times since the law passed in 2001, and the board began considering the change last summer, Chavez said.

Luis Figueroa of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said advocates for immigrants are concerned universities will encourage students to contact federal agencies about their status before consulting a lawyer.

“They need legal guidance,” before contacting immigration enforcement authorities Figueroa said.

Ainee Athar, a third-year anthropology student at the University of Texas, moved with her family to Texas from Pakistan 15 years ago and has qualified for the lower tuition rate. She said the yearly reminders about a student’s legal status are unnecessary.

“No one forgets that,” she said.

Supporters of the tuition law say the thousands of students taking advantage proves its worth. Those are students who might not be able to afford a college education without it.

The average cost at a four-year university for Texas residents is about $7,000 in tuition and fees and about $17,000 for nonresidents. At community colleges, the average cost is about $1,400 for residents and $4,800 for nonresidents.

“It’s not about immigration,” Athar said. “It’s about education.”

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio Democrat who helped write the law, considers the rule change a minor one that won’t change the intent of the law or its impact on those who use it. She also said she isn’t worried that it’s the first step in an effort to eventually repeal the law.

“They’ve been trying to repeal it every year since I passed it,” Van de Putte said.

The latest effort was in 2011, when Perry was flirting with running for president but was not yet a candidate. Legislation by Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Republican from Granbury, to repeal the tuition break was defeated by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Birdwell called the rule change a “step in the right direction … (but) these rules do nothing to solve the core problem of nonresidents unfairly receiving discounted tuition rates.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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  • DDR

    We know they’re illegally here, yet they’re paying college tuition. Ergo, the authorities know where they are. That’s what it sounds like, right?

    So, here’s my question o’ the day: Why doesn’t INS just show up at class, arrest them, and deport them?

  • breese59

    oboma wants their vote so he is giving them our country

    • ilvrw

      How do you tie Obama to a Slick Rick law? Be real. maybe Perry was trying to steal some minority votes, but tell me this would have happened in Texas if Obama’s name was on it.

    • Ashamed TX

      HELLO, breese59,

      Get a clue. Must be a citizen to vote. DUH!
      How are they gonna vote.

  • http://www.alipac.us/f12/texas-tweak-tuition-rule-illegal-immigrants-249279/#post1254317 Texas To Tweak Tuition Rule For Illegal Immigrants

    […] […]

  • Ashamed TX

    Sound like you people leaving comments shoud get off the computer and get educated.
    Stupid, Racist, and worthless is no way to go through life.
    At least, at the very least these people are making a contribution to society.
    How do you make a contribution?

  • FedUpTxn

    Laws with no enforcement are common tactics meant to gain votes only. A current stastic shows that 44% of the DFW population is now “foreign born”. Voters are rarely if ever checked for correct ID. ID theft rose when the illegal population began their invasion. It is a common joke among people around the word that to get any and everything for free in the US, all you need to do is lie! It’s time to require fingerprints to cross the border, to board an airplane, to register for school, to apply for social services, to buy property, to get a job, and for medical care. The cost of crime alone attributed to the illegal population is way out of control. Just take a look at Garland open warrants online if you want a prime example. This is what is truly bankrupting this country. Mass deportations would save taxpayers billions, but Mexico should also be sanctioned for their part in encouraging their citizens to violate our laws. Money sent OUT of the US is the SECOND biggest financial support of Mexico, so they have vested interest to see that it continues. Time to crack down on both Mexico and it’s citizens as well as any other illegal immigrant from any country.

  • texas heartland

    This is not about immigration or education. Its about ILLEGAL’s being in our country and there being no consequences for it. Pack em’ up and ship em’ out!! If we know they are here, and they are breaking the law, we should not have to support them. Get these stupid politicians to enforce our laws.

  • Amanda

    We that are hear legal citizens in low income or even mid income can’t afford college tuition I feel this is BS and not fair

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