For all of its tough talk at the border, Texas grants millions of dollars in subsidized college tuition to illegal aliens.
After two failed attempts to ban such aid, state Rep. Kyle Biedermann hopes the third time is a charm.
“Magnet policies that benefit illegal immigrants hurt citizens and those who immigrated here legally. We must remove these magnets,” the Fredericksburg Republican said.
House Bill 413 doesn’t bar illegal aliens from Texas’s public universities. Rather, Biedermann’s bill treats them the same as out-of-state students who pay the full, unsubsidized cost of tuition.
As things stand now, the tuition differential — $34,484 vs. $16,507 – costs Texas taxpayers millions of dollars annually.
The state’s universities do not disclose exact enrollment figures for illegal aliens, and estimates vary wildly from 4,320 students (2 percent of enrollment) up to 24,000. Even taking the lower figure, taxpayers finance more than $77 million in tuition discounts for illegal aliens each year.
“HB 413 will save millions of dollars that we can either return to taxpayers or use to prioritize to core functions of government,” Biedermann’s office stated in an email.
Striving to blunt opposition, Biedermann notes that high-achieving students in the state illegally “can still receive scholarships and financial aid from both public and private funding sources.”
If past is prologue, such accommodations won’t be enough to ensure passage. Though Gov. Greg Abbott has expressed concern about the current tuition break, he has yet to endorse HB 413, and none of Biedermann’s House colleagues have signed on. But the bill was just filed last week, and the Legislature doesn’t convene its biennial session until January.
Mindful of Texas’s large immigrant population – both legal and illegal – the state’s elected officials have taken resolute stands on some immigration issues while looking the other way on others.
Texas was the first state to pass a law banning sanctuary cities, and it allocates millions of dollars for border enforcement. Yet lawmakers leave the illegal job magnet intact when they refuse to require employment screenings through the federal E-Verify system.
Will the Texas Legislature continue to avert its eyes while illegal aliens use the state’s university system at taxpayer expense? How long can Republican-led Texas justify being among 20 states with border-erasing “tuition-equity” laws that cater to them?
“Whatever it is you tolerate, you’re going to get more of,” said JoAnn Fleming, executive director of Grassroots America – We The People, a conservative activist group. “If [parents of illegal aliens]want their children to get in-state tuition, maybe they should make sure they’re legal residents first.”
Texas lawmakers, take note.
Bob Dane writes for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform.