87th LegislatureEducationImmigration & BorderState HouseTaxes & SpendingTwo Lawmakers Look to End In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants

Universities charge citizens from other states more than some students "not authorized under federal statute to be present" in the U.S.
February 3, 2021
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For a hopeful student from Lawton, Oklahoma, attending Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas — about an hour away — would cost about a thousand bucks more per year than the rate paid by non-citizens who graduated from high school in Texas. Two Republican lawmakers want to see that changed.

State Rep. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford) has filed a bill to end in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Freshman colleague Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) plans to help Cason carry the proposal, now beginning its fourth life after similar ideas languished in committees of the last three legislative sessions.

The bill would strike out a swath of current law that counts anybody who has graduated from high school after three years of living in Texas as an official resident in the eyes of public colleges. In its place, Cason has written an alternative method to determine resident status.

“A person who is not authorized under federal statute to be present in the United States may not be considered a resident of this state for purposes of this title,” the bill text reads.

Cason framed his legislation as a fiscal issue.

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“Texans’ tax dollars should not be used to reward and encourage illegal immigration to our state and nation. As Texas taxpayers are seeing their property taxes rise, they are rightfully even more frustrated to find out that the Texas legislature has seen fit to give handouts to illegal immigrants. This must end now,” Cason stated in a press release.

The proposal has been a regular phoenix for the grassroots wing of the Texas GOP for years. Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) filed the same bill in the last legislature, where it died under the committee chairmanship of Rep. Chris Turner (D-Arlington). Then-Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Frisco) filed it in 2017, following in the footsteps of Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) the session before. Stickland’s bill died under a Republican committee chair: Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana).

The fates of these past attempts may spell doom for the bill this session in light of Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan’s (R-Beaumont) promise to grant some committee chairs to Democrats. Cason and Slaton were the only two members of the Texas House to vote against granting him the speakership.

“Last session in Higher Education, legislation prohibiting illegal immigrants from receiving taxpayer subsidized tuition rates never received a vote,” Slaton wrote in a December letter to Phelan asking him not to appoint any Democratic chairman to committees that would oversee GOP priorities.

“Furthermore, Democrats were given unilateral control of the Public Health Committee which allowed them to kill legislation that would ban abortion when a child’s heartbeat can be detected… We hope you decide to reform how Republican Speakers have operated in the past when they have declared a significant portion of our Republican Party’s agenda dead the day committee assignments come out.”

Coincidentally, the bill may cross paths with a different conservative effort in Cason’s neighboring county aimed not at illegal immigration but at high tuition costs.

A conservative student group has sued the University of North Texas in an effort to change the same law in the Texas Education Code that the bill targets. Because the Education Code considers illegal aliens to be residents under the right conditions, the student group argues that Texas is offering them a benefit unavailable to American citizens from other states. The conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation has aided the case, pending in the Denton County court system, in the hopes that a win could lead to the end of out-of-state tuition in Texas.

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.