Debate over Texas DREAM Act fires up at Capitol

AUSTIN (KXAN) –  On just the second day of the new legislative session, the debate over immigration is already heating up. Conservative lawmakers want to repeal the law which gives in-state tuition to the children of people who came to the United States illegally.

Recent University of Texas graduate Manuel Ramirez works for the State Employees Union. A four-year degree and a full-time job seemed far away when his parents came here illegally. They never made it to the 7th grade.

“My parents brought us here for a higher education, to offer us something that they never had,” said Ramirez.

A current Texas law allowing kids who entered the country illegally to get in-state tuition had supporters shouting in its defense on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

“Down with deportation! Up with Education!” they yelled. Several representatives spoke alongside Bill Hammond from the Texas Association of Business.

Rally organizers say the Texas DREAM Act, which passed in 2001, is under attack.

“We believe we received more votes from Hispanic voters than any Republican ever before. This is an issue for everyone,” said Lt. Governor-elect Dan Patrick. He won the majority of the Hispanic vote in his 20-point landslide victory over Sen. Leticia Van De Putte.

During his campaign, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott said he would not stop lawmakers’ efforts to repeal the Texas DREAM Act, if it came up this session. Abbott told KXAN he believes the way the law is structured is “flawed” and “has to be fixed.”

“The way the law is written is students who are applying for in-state tuition under that law must be making progress toward establishing legal status,” he said. “There are absolutely no rules or regulations establishing whether they are fulfilling the law as it is written. At a minimum, the law has to be fixed.”

Bills have already been filed to end the program and they have major support.

“It’s a question of fairness to American citizens,” said Patrick.

The Federal government recently said Ramirez and his sisters can stay, and he hopes the Texas DREAM Act stays around and his siblings have the same opportunities he did.

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