(Photo: REUTERS/Richard Carson)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is facing some heat from his own alma mater this week over his stance on illegal immigration. The Texas Aggie Conservatives, a student organization at Texas A&M University, is condemning Texas’ DREAM Act which provides in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants.
They launched a petition on Monday urging the governor, a class of 1972 Aggie, to call a special legislative session to overturn the bill.
“It is outrageous that Texas A&M, because of Gov. Perry, is awarding those who violated the law with in-state tuition and financial aid,” stated Steven Schroeder, chair of the Texas Aggie Conservatives, in a press release.
“The Texas government, especially in these troubling economic times, should not be subsidizing the higher education of adults who cannot legally work in the United States."
The Texas DREAM Act was passed by Perry in 2001 and allows the children of illegal immigrants to enjoy in-state tuition to any college in Texas. Unlike the proposed federal DREAM act, the Texas bill does not allow illegal immigrants a path to citizenship after attending a university. In order to be eligible for the Texas bill, an illegal immigrant must have attended a Texas high school for three years prior to college or hold a GED. The illegal must also promise to seek permanent resident status upon graduation.
Approximately 300 of the 12,000 students benefit from the Texas DREAM Act at Texas A&M. The in-state tuition rate at the school is approximately one-fourth of the out-of-state rate.
TAC has been collecting signatures for their petition on campus all week and it is also available online for the public. By signing the petition, citizens ask Perry to “end this unfair policy, which harms American students and rewards criminal behavior.”
Perry’s presidential campaign has floundered because of this policy as many conservative voters express a desire for harsher immigration laws. Conservatives appear dismayed over the fact that Perry still adamantly supports the DREAM bill. Perry went so far as to state in one of the GOP debates that opponents of the policy must not “have a heart.” His poll numbers among conservatives dropped drastically after that comment. Amid the controversy, Perry back-tracked a bit and admitted his comments were “inappropriate.”
"The fact that he continues to defend his stance is troubling," Justin Pulliam, the TAC fundraising officer, told theeagle.com. "He's not an all-around conservative candidate."
“If Governor Perry is really serious about running for president, he should immediately call a special legislative session to reform Texas’s immigration policy and prove that he is capable of advancing conservative policy initiatives,” Pulliam said in the statement.
Pulliam told The Christian Post that the goal is to get 1,000 signatures for the petition. So far, they have 700.
"We're close," Pulliam said, "I hope we can end this legislation that encourages people to break the law."
However, not everyone opposes the Texas DREAM Act.
The University of Texas is not only a rivalry of Texas A&M on the football field but in politics as well. The University Leadership Initiative, a group that fully supports DREAM, at the University of Texas has condemned the A&M’s petition.
University student Karla Resendiz and member of the Leadership Initiative has personally benefited from the bill. According to KVUE News, she was born in Mexico and spent years waiting to see if her application for residency had been approved.
"It's definitely not an issue of money," Resendiz told KVUE News, "All the facts show that this law is actually really good for the state and benefits the state as a whole economically."
Another student told The Texas Tribune that TAC is just “mean.”
"There is nothing conservative about their petition," said Ainee Athar, a UT student and member of the Leadership Initiative. "This is a mean-spirited action that seeks to punish young people who are doing everything they can to succeed, despite countless obstacles."
If Perry were to concede to the petition and call a special session, something that could only happen at his request, the Texas Comptroller estimates that it would cost taxpayers $37,500 per day.
However, Pulliam told The Christian Post that in order for Texas to settle big issues special, legislative sessions must be called into action. During regular sessions, Pulliam explains, the controversial issues rarely get discussed because either there is simply not enough time or the opposing party will filibuster.