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AUDIO: Dreamers Grateful Efforts to Repeal In-State Tuition Benefit Never Materialized

Houston is the only place Samuel Cervantes considers home. His parents brought him to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, at the age of five.

As an undocumented immigrant, Cervantes, a rising junior at the University of Texas at Austin, said he never thought college was in his future until he learned of the in-state tuition benefit afforded students like himself.

“It quelled a lot of fears that I had because for a good percentage of my time in high school, I felt that I wasn’t going to be able to go to college because I wasn’t documented, and I didn’t think I was going to be able to afford it,” Cervantes said.

The 2001 state law allows noncitizens, including some undocumented immigrants, to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges if they can prove they’ve been Texas residents for at least three years and graduated from a Texas high school or received a GED. They must also sign an affidavit promising to pursue a path to permanent legal status if one becomes available.

Every session, a handful of Republican lawmakers attempt to rescind the long-standing offer. This year, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland filed House Bill 393, which would have eliminated the program by spelling out in statute that a person “not authorized” to be in the country can’t be considered a Texas resident.

The Bedford Republican told The Texas Tribune in January that he considers the benefit a lure for undocumented immigrants and that his constituents “want the magnets turned off.”

Asked why the legislation never even got so much as a committee hearing, Stickland blamed House leadership, including Speaker Joe Straus.

One big immigration measure did pass and become law: Senate Bill 4 is the controversial anti-“sanctuary cities” bill, which includes a provision allowing law enforcement to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest. The law is tied up in the courts, but just the prospect of it leaves undocumented students like Cervantes fearful.

In the meantime, the proud Longhorn says he’ll try to focus on his studies. He said he’ll fight the next round of bills he expects lawmakers to file in subsequent sessions so his younger sister can also take advantage of in-state tuition.

“Undocumented students will go on to have the ability to contribute to the Texas economy by utilizing their college degrees, and I think that having a more educated population benefits the Texas society as a whole,” Cervantes said.

Live chat: Talk to our reporters about bills that didn’t make it out of the regular session — and what’s ahead in the special — Friday, July 14 at noon. Ask a question

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Will Texas legislators repeal in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants? One Republican lawmaker is determined to make it happen. [link]

Author:  ALANA ROCHA – The Texas Tribune

Bishop Seitz: I Can Hear Jesus’ Indignant Response to AGs who Want to Deport ‘Dreamers’

Not many things made Jesus angry. He was the picture of patience and forgiveness even in the face of many serious human faults. But one thing often caused Jesus to fly off the handle — legalistic leaders.

While Jesus’ life and ministry may have taken place 2,000 years ago, now in my home state of Texas, legalists are placing the letter of the law ahead of the well-being and dignity of children and families.

On June 29, attorneys general from 10 states including Ken Paxton of Texas threatened in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to sue the Trump administration if it does not eliminate Obama-era protections that shield “Dreamers,” or undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

The letter called on the administration to stop accepting new or renewing existing applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Obama created during his first term.

If these upholders of the law have their wish, Dreamers will no longer be protected from deportation.

The scribes and the Pharisees of his time drove Jesus to distraction. As he put it, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes … and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. These you should have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). And as he told his disciples, “but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice” (Matthew 23:3).

Are the roles of the scribes and Pharisees being played out again today? Paxton and the nine other attorneys general argue that it’s not enough to exercise our country’s legal prerogatives regarding immigration with the adults who have sought refuge within our borders. Must we go even further and also lay the heavy burden of the law on the children they brought with them? Will we wrench Dreamers from their schools, communities and the only homes they have ever known? Will we send them away because they are not “legal”?

Around 220,000 young people in Texas will be out of school and out of productive work: a classic formula to create the desperation that makes drug dealing and other crime appear to be the only option.

The leaders of Jesus’ day thought by fulfilling the minutiae of the law they could be righteous before God and, more importantly for them, appear righteous before human beings. Jesus answered that they should have practiced a higher law, that of justice and mercy and faithfulness. They should have imitated God’s compassion toward those forced by life’s circumstances to carry heavy loads. They should not have added to those loads with self-righteous insistence on the smaller points of the law.

When I hear this legalistic insistence upon every letter of our broken immigration law being carried out to this cruel degree, I can hear Jesus’ indignant response: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.

Author Mark J. Seitz is bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese El Paso  | Article via Religion News Service 

Rep O’Rourke to Hold Community Meeting on ‘DREAMers’ Sunday

 

Congressman Beto O’Rourke says that El Paso is at the center of a national debate when it comes to immigration policy.

“The President-elect has promised to immediately terminate President Obama’s executive actions on immigration to include deportation protections granted to DREAMers, young people brought to this country as children and who have registered with the government while they pursue their studies, serve in the military and continue to contribute to this country,” O’Rourke stated in a news release.

According to the American Immigration Council, there are approximately 1.8 million immigrants in the United States who might be, or might become, eligible for the Obama Administration’s “deferred action” initiative for unauthorized youth brought to this country as children, better known as the DREAMers.

DREAMers are named for the DREAM (is acronym for (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, the legislative proposal for a multi-phase process for undocumented immigrants in the US. The DREAM Act would first grant conditional residency and, upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency.

In order to better understand the position these DREAMers are in, Rep. O’Rourke is hosting a community meeting this weekend to hear from Borderland residents on the subject.

O’Rourke adds, “I will be joined by community, faith and civic leaders to share DREAMers stories, discuss policy ideas and hear from you.”

The DREAMers Community Meeting is scheduled for  Sunday, January 15th at 1:30 p.m. in San Jacinto Plaza in downtown El Paso.

 

After Deadlock, Undocumented Texans Aim to Fight for Change

In November 2014 when President Barack Obama unveiled his executive action on immigration amid congressional gridlock, Bryan Martinez says he was relieved that the federal government planned to protect him from deportation.

“The feeling was amazing because for so long people have said we have to do something about immigration, but they never did anything,” said Martinez. “For me, it was a ‘Thank you Obama’ moment because it was an [opportunity] for me.”

But Martinez’s fate, and that of millions like him, was put on hold — at least for now. At a news conference in Austin Thursday afternoon, he joined dozens of other immigration reform advocates to denounce that morning’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately thwarted Obama’s executive order, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.

The plan sought to shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants — including some 1.46 million in Texas — from deportation and allow immigrants to obtain working permits if they have lived in the country for more than five years, passed background checks and paid fines.

The high court’s 4-4 vote ultimately leaves a lower court’s injunction against the executive order in place and ends any chance for it to be implemented before Obama leaves office, according to legal experts. It also blocked Obama’s effort to expand a 2012 program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

For Martinez, who traveled across the U.S.-Mexico border to Texas in 2009 with his brother, the ruling meant he and other undocumented Texans need to remain resolute.

“The fight is not over,” said Martinez. “We have to push and make them hear what we want to make them hear. We will keep fighting for a better future.”

Yet DAPA applicants such as Maria Lopez, who moved from Mexico to Texas 10 years ago with her now 13-year-old son, feel deflated.

“I was excited to feel that I would finally be able to come out of the shadows,” Lopez said through a translator. “But I am feeling very sad. I’m heartbroken because today we were failed. My [three] children are in fear because they are afraid that we can get separated anyway.”

Advocates Thursday spoke of the need to engage voters on the issue so they understand what’s at stake in the upcoming elections.

“Although I know this is a disappointing ruling, it’s not the end,” said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin. “But what this ruling means is that the election in November is crucial when it comes to immigration issues. It’s one of the most critical election years. So register to vote if you can, and people you know — get them out. I know we’re down, but the fight continues.”

Carlos González Gutiérrez, the Mexican consul in Austin, told reporters that the Mexican government “regrets” the Supreme Court’s decision. He said an approval by the court of Obama’s executive orders “would have been a recognition of the positive impact the millions of Mexican immigrants have on the social fabric of this society and the economic growth of this country.”

Author: Khorri Atkinson – The Texas Tribune

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