Friday is the last day for early voting in the primaries, and for some students, the stakes of the lieutenant governor’s race are high — maybe high enough to keep them from going to college, because the Republican candidates have vowed to do their best to repeal the in-state tuition law that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition prices. Throughout the race, Republican candidates David Dewhurst, the current lieutenant governor; state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston; Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson; and Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples have leaned completely to the right in a fight to prove who has the most conservative political ideals, which are highly favored in the red state of Texas. Anti-immigration rhetoric has been ubiquitous during the campaign for the office, which is often considered the most powerful in the state. Patrick, a Tea Party candidate, seems to be the most likely to make good on this threat. Despite college students’ tendency to vote Democrat, UT students should vote in the Republican primaries if only to keep Patrick out of office.
Among the Republican candidates, there is a consensus that illegal immigrants, even those brought here as children, should not be granted citizenship or reap any of its benefits. Patrick has even referred to immigrants as “invaders,” and his campaign website states that illegal immigrants are a threat to the safety of Texans as well as to the Texas economy. However, Patrick fails to realize the value that college-educated, bilingual people could add to the state economy. Repeal of in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants would be a loss for the state. As Barbara Hines, co-director of the Immigration Center at the UT School of Law, told the Texan, “It would be bad economic sense for the state. Once educated, these students contribute to society in a professional capacity, and they pay sales and property taxes as well.”
Beyond being bad economics, repealing the in-state tuition law is also morally repugnant. Undocumented students who are children of illegal immigrants do not have a say in where they are born or raised. It would be a mistake to blame and punish these students who, according to Hines, have excelled in Texas high schools and have no intention of returning to their home countries. “It is unfortunate that politics of exclusion have gotten in the way of humanistic ways of imagining a more tolerant, educated and inclusive civil society,” American studies associate professor Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez said.
Though all of the Republican candidates for the lieutenant governor’s office have stated their firm opposition to the in-state tuition law during the campaign season, only Patrick has the track record to prove that they would truly repeal it. Dewhurst has been in office for 12 years, and the law has yet to be repealed. Patterson has stated that he would support a method of providing lawful status to illegal immigrants, and Staples actually voted in favor of the in-state tuition law in 2001. Their support for the repeal could easily be an empty platform point. Patrick is the only Republican candidate that has not contradicted himself on the issue.
Given the high stakes of this election for some of our fellow Longhorns, should take the time to vote in the Republican primaries before early voting closes Friday, if only to ensure that Senator Patrick does not move on to the general election in November.
Davis is an international relations and French junior from Houston.