EL PASO, Texas –Texas lawmakers voted to move a bill forward that would end in-state tuition for undocumented students attending public colleges and universities.
“It would double the tuition. It would be impossible for me to pay it,” said Christian Juarez, a student at the University of Texas El Paso.
He’s among an estimated 25,000 students who qualify for in-state tuition under the Texas Dream Act approved in 2001.
The law allows in-state tuition for: undocumented students who graduated from a Texas high school; have lived in the state at least three years; and pledge to become U.S. citizens as soon as possible.
“I came here when I was a baby, 1-year-old with my mom,” said Juarez.
He had to overcome hearing, vision, and medical problems to realize his dream and attend college.
“In spite of that I was able to overcome all the obstacles and I wanted to be what I wanted to be, to try my best and learn,” Juarez said.
He earned a 4.0 GPA and is now studying nursing at UTEP. He was inspired by nurses who cared for him when he was hospitalized in an intensive care unit four years ago.
“When I got out I wanted to be like the nurses that helped me,” said Juarez.
He was busy attending classes when the Senate subcommittee on border security heard testimony for Senate Bill 1819, by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.
The Texas Dream Act was approved by a nearly unanimous vote in 2001 and touted by then Texas Governor Rick Perry. But Republicans who want to repeal the law say it attracts illegal immigrants.
“It’s just bad policy that awards illegal immigration in perpetuity,” said Campbell.
Those in favor of the Dream Act say it provides Texas with an educated workforce that helps the economy.
Students wearing caps and gowns were among those who packed the hearing.
After 11 hours of emotional testimony Tuesday, mostly in favor of the Texas Dream Act, Republican lawmakers voted along party lines to send the bill to the full Veterans Affairs and Military Installations committee.
Though this bill is now moving forward, time is running out. The legislative session ends June 21.
Juarez hopes he will still qualify for in-state tuition next fall. He only needs one more semester to graduate with a nursing degree.
“I care about people I want to help and contribute to my community,” he said.