While some policy proposals for the Texas Republican Party Platform were more controversial than others, few bore more support than repealing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
The simple language, which reads “We oppose in-state college tuition for illegal aliens,” was supported by over 95% of the convention delegates.
First enacted in 2001, the law faced little scrutiny until roughly ten years ago. Since then, there’s been a mounting conservative crescendo demanding its repeal. Still, despite conservative support repeal efforts haven’t been able to take root in the Texas Legislature.
In 2015, the measure died in both chambers.
In the Texas House, liberal coalition led by Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) ardently opposed the repeal. To kill the measure there, Straus sat on the various repeal proposals before referring them to the committee of his hatchet man, State Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), who refused to hold a hearing on the legislation.
In the Senate, repeal was supported by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and nearly all of the Senate Republican caucus, but was successfully stifled by three defectors –liberal Republican State Sens. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), and Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls). Both made clear that they would join the Democrat blockade opposing repeal.
Next session, advocates should fare better for one simple reason: elections.
Since Eltife won’t be returning to the Texas Senate, both Seliger and Estes will be required to openly defy the grassroots in a year they are running for re-election—a harsh spotlight for both vulnerable incumbents for whom there are already rumblings of candidates making ready to replace them.
With more favorable conditions and a true measure of support serving as a tail wind, conservatives should be emboldened at the likelihood of repealing the policy next session. However, much hard work will be necessary in order to succeed.