Students take stand on latest immigration bills

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82nd Legislature

Undocumented UT students joined hundreds of other Texans to testify about proposed immigration bills before the Texas House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Adrian Reyna, a member of undocumented students and allies group University Leadership Initiative, said a bill from Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, would potentially hurt undocumented UT students’ ability to pay for higher education. One part of the bill repeals access to in-state tuition for undocumented students, but Reyna said this comes from a misconception that he and other undocumented students are a drain on state finances. “We’re nothing but a benefit to the state,” said Reyna, whose family immigrated illegally to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 11. Reyna cited the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which said for fiscal year 2009, undocumented students paid $9.5 million out-of-pocket for tuition. That money came from families and went directly to the economy, he said. Equal Justice Center director Bill Beardall said several of these bills would make wage theft worse. “It will encourage unscrupulous employers to hire more undocumented workers in order to exploit them,” he said. One bill from Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, would prohibit cities from creating policies that prevent police from verifying immigration status during stops or arrests. Beardall said Solomon’s bill would lower wages and reduce job opportunities for U.S. citizen workers and puts legitimate employers at a disadvantage. He said undocumented workers will be too afraid to turn unscrupulous employers in to the authorities because of these bills. However, some of the testimony at the public hearing was in support of the 16 immigration bills discussed. Houston resident Sue Salter testified before the committee about her husband, former Houston police officer Rick Salter, who was shot in the face by an illegal immigrant last year. Rick was in a coma for 30 days and cannot speak clearly anymore. She said she wants legislators to remember her family’s tragedy. “What happens to innocent Americans who have to deal with the consequences of illegal immigration for the rest of our lives?” Salter said. This article has been changed to reflect the following retraction: An earlier version of this article included a quote from an undocumented student who requested his information be removed for safety reasons.