In last night’s debate, State Senator Dan Patrick reaffirmed his opposition to the Texas Dream Act, which he has vowed to repeal if he is elected lieutenant governor. The Dream Act, signed into law by Rick Perry in 2001 with broad bipartisan support, allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Texas’s public schools so long as they graduated from high school or got their GED in Texas and spent at least three years in the state.
In the debate, Dan Patrick said it’s not fair to give a seat at a Texas school to someone who may not be here legally. (Even though the Dream Act does not affect admissions – just tuition.) In a recent campaign e-mail, Patrick also described the Dream Act as “taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants.”
And when Patrick was calling for the Dream Act’s repeal in an ad in 2013, he said, “If Sam Houston, Travis, Bowie and Austin were here today, they would be proud of Texas, but they would be ashamed of Washington. Illegal immigration is Washington’s responsibility, but it’s our problem.”
Not only are Patrick’s views on the wrong side of history and economic policy, but they’re now even turning off fellow conservatives.
Hector de Leon, co-chairman of the Associated Republicans of Texas, said Patrick’s move to repeal the Dream Act was “unnecessary” and would alienate Hispanic voters. Art Martinez de Vara, co-founder of the Texas Federation of Hispanic Republicans, said during the primaries, “It’s unfortunate seeing everybody clamor to see who can be the most extreme on [the Dream Act].” Hispanic voters are becoming increasingly influential in Texas elections, which has scared Republicans because of the group’s tendency to lean Democratic. But Patrick has gone far enough to alienate even the Republican Hispanics who were already predisposed to vote for him.
The business community isn’t on his side either. “We think in-state tuition is a very appropriate response to the fact that we need more Texans going to college and completing college,” said Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond. Though the group endorsed Patrick over Leticia Van de Putte, they made clear that they are not with him on the Dream Act: “We choose to disagree with him respectfully on this issue.”
Even Rick Perry, when he signed the DREAM Act into law, told opponents of the law, “I don’t think you have a heart.” As recently as this month, he told the Texas Tribune that he still supports it, saying, “Economically, what was in the best interest in the state of Texas was to give these young people the opportunity to be givers rather than takers, to be a constructive part of this society.”
Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Leticia Van de Putte, actually wrote the Texas Dream Act and understands why it’s critical for Texas.
According to a recent op-ed Letitia Van de Putte wrote for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, by the time students eligible for the Dream Act graduate high school, the state has already invested at least $26,013 in them through their attendance in Texas public high schools. That’s just for the three years of high school they have to complete in order to be eligible to go to college under the Dream Act – Texas invests much more in the students who come here younger. And the return on the investment once they go to college is almost $4 for each $1 invested.
But Dan Patrick is more interested in punishing students whose parents may have come here illegally than recognizing the value -both morally and economically – of giving them opportunity. And now it may finally be coming back to bite him.