Jim Terry
Texas under attack
By Jim Terry
September 28, 2011

I am not a Rick Perry apologist. I don't believe he will be in the running by year's end. But he doesn't seem to be able to handle the question raised about his signing of legislation ten years ago which allows children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition.

Most of his Republican opponents have swarmed him with righteous indignation that he would think about throwing away Texas taxpayer money on these people. And his answer of the heart is a throwback to his Democrat days.

Pew Hispanic Research Center estimates that Texas, in 2010, had half a million more illegal immigrants than the states represented by all the other current Republican presidential candidates combined. Texas has the second highest illegal immigrant population in the nation. All of Perry's Republican opponents may have opinions on illegal immigrants; they have very limited experience with them.

The bill Perry signed, House Bill 1403, passed the Texas Senate with 30 yeas, and one senator present but not voting. In the Texas House, 142 representatives voted to pass the bill, one voted against it and two were present but did not vote. An overwhelming veto-proof vote in both houses. At the time both houses were fairly evenly split with Democrats holding a six vote advantage in the State House, and Republicans a one vote advantage in the State Senate. Can a law be more bipartisan than that?

During committee hearings in both bodies of the Texas Legislature no one appeared to oppose the legislation; no one registered in opposition.

Perry's veto of the bill would have been comparable to what the Obama administration has done in the passage of the Obamacare act. Except in that case, nobody wanted it; in Perry's case, no one opposed it

The bill states:

    j) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, an individual shall be classified as a Texas resident until the individual establishes a residence outside this state if the individual resided with the individual's parent, guardian, or conservator while attending a public or private high school in this state and:

      (1) graduated from a public or private high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma in this state;

      (2) resided in this state for at least three years as of the date the person graduated from high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma;

      (3) registers as an entering student in an institution of higher education not earlier than the 2001 fall semester; and

      (4) provides to the institution an affidavit stating that the individual will file an application to become a permanent resident at the earliest opportunity the individual is eligible to do so.

In 1975, the Texas Legislature voted to withhold State funds to local school districts for the education of children who were not "legally admitted" into the United States.

This legislation led to a class action lawsuit (Plyler v Doe, 457, U.S, 202 1982) filed in 1977 in federal court on behalf of school age children of Mexican origin living in Smith County, Texas and who could not establish legal admittance to the United States. They complained they were discriminated against by the Tyler Independent School District which refused to admit them as students.

Five years later, the case had worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court which, in June 1982, rendered its opinion. The thirty three pages of the opinion boil down to this:

    The undocumented status of these children vel non does not establish a sufficient rational basis for denying them benefits that the State affords other residents.

This lawsuit established residence for children of illegal immigrants.

As a result, the State of Texas has spent millions, or billions, of Texas taxpayers' dollars to educate children of illegal immigrants in the free public education system.

Would Mitt Romney have us believe that the State of Massachusetts spent no tax dollars educating children of illegal immigrants under his governorship? Or would Michelle Bachmann deny that Minnesota spent no tax dollars educating children of illegal immigrants while she was a member of the Minnesota State Senate?

With regard to higher education and the in-state tuition by children of illegal immigrants, the issue Perry's opponents want to string him up on, the Texas legislature merely confirmed in HB 1403 what the federal court had already established in Plyler-residence which qualifies an individual for the benefits and protection under the U.S. Constitution.

The issue of a person's residence is a much litigated issue. It is also a much legislated issue. Residence can be a sticky issue. For example, a college student may choose his residence for the purpose of voting: either at his place of education or the place he resides when not in school. Owners of several vacation homes, have several residences, but one "legal residence' or domicile.

But there is a deeper issue which may point out some hypocrisy on the part of the Republican candidates, and the audience at the debates which booed and hissed when the issue of in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants was mentioned.

The Mission Statement of the Tea Party Patriots (http://www.teapartypatriots.org/) says, "we support states' rights for those powers not expressly stated in the Constitution.

And at TeaParty. net, their cry is, "Returning political power to the states and the people."

The bill the Texas legislature passed and Governor Rick Perry signed in 2001 allowing children of illegal immigrants the benefits of paying in-state tuition at Texas public colleges and universities was a state of Texas issue. It did not affect Massachusetts, Minnesota, Georgia, Utah or Pennsylvania or any other state. It was an issue on the right of self government by the people of Texas through their elected representatives on an issue, education, which is not a legitimate federal issue.

If or when Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or any other candidate or member of the Tea Party touts states' rights, then denounces the governor of Texas for signing a bill that affects only Texas, they are demagogues and hypocrites. And worse, they are not only attacking Rick Perry, they are attacking the people of Texas.

© Jim Terry


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy62@yahoo.com


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