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Texas A & M’s SB 63-11

November 23rd, 2010 · 3 Comments

The following blog piece provides some background about how education for undocumented students is under attack, especially in light of the DREAM Act movement. Texas has had an instate tuition bill for its undocumented residents since 2001.

By Thailandia Alaffita

Last spring the Student Senate at Texas A&M University introduced SB 63-11. The bill, written by Senators Justin Pulliam, Alison Landry, and Steven Crumpley, states that it opposes granting in-state tuition to persons residing in the United States “illegally.” When brought up to vote last May, protesters stood outside of the John J. Koldus building and followed the senators into their meeting when it began.

The bill was sent to the External Affairs Committee for revision due to lack of research and information, and the protesters left with a promise of a survey before it was brought up for a vote again.

SB 63-11 states that A&M does not agree with current legislation, SB 1528, which grants residency for tuition purposes to undocumented students who fulfill certain criteria. In order to qualify for Senate Bill 1528, students must have lived in Texas 3 years prior to enrollment to an institution of higher education, must have received a Texas high school diploma or GED, and sign and turn in a notarized affidavit stating that they will file for permanent residency at the first opportunity possible to the institution they will be attending.

The student bill has no legal binding to current legislation, however, it would reflect the opinion of the student body at Texas A&M University, which after obvious strong opposition, would not be accurate to say that this is what the students at Texas A&M University feel. Other universities, such as Harvard, have publicly endorsed these undocumented students and their opportunity to pursue a higher education.

On November  3rd the bill was brought up to vote again. The protesters were out again, this time with an estimated 50-60 undergraduate and graduate students against this bill. Having only two days to organize, the Council for Minority Student Affairs (CMSA) had an impressive turn out – the meeting room was packed.

When inquired about the short notice given to their constituents, the senators responded that the original meeting had been rescheduled to a Sunday meeting and that due to the rescheduling the meeting was not mandatory, hence only five senators showed up. The bill was voted out to the Senate at that meeting, with 15 senators missing.

At the Senate meeting on the 3rd, the constituents expressed their views on SB 63-11 and asked about the survey they were promised and never received. The constituents were assured that a survey was in the works, but due to difficulties they were not able to get it out in time before the vote. However, in interest of the legislative agenda, SB 63-11 would have to be voted on without the survey. At the end of the night, the bill was passed with 41 votes in favor of the bill, 26 against the bill, and 2 abstentions.

The senators’ ultimate goal was to make sure that the bill passed and then begin lobbying at the state level, representing Texas A&M University, and urge that current state legislation be overturned and urge the state government to stop granting in-state tuition to undocumented students.

When the bill reached Student Body President, Jacob Robinson, it was vetoed mainly because the constituents demanded the survey that was promised to them. The bill was brought back to the floor at the senate meeting on Wednesday, November 17th. The CMSA conducted their own petition, informing Aggies in their classes and around campus, about SB 63-11 and asking them to sign the petition if they opposed it. They gathered an estimated 400 signatures opposing the bill.

On November 17th, the CMSA and its supporters had encountered some opposition carrying signs that read “Make them pay” and “Aggies against Illegal Immigration”. Pulliam, Crumpley, and Landry repeated their presentation on their bill. Robinson presented his reasons for vetoing this bill. His two main reasons were that there was no student opinion gathered and that this issue was one that did not belong in the student senate, rather it was a state issue.

This decisive and important meeting was long, for issues not pertaining to SB 63-11 were discussed prolonging the voting of SB 63-11. Protesters and student senators alike grew uneasy. Once multiple senators asked to move on with the agenda and get to what we were all there for, they finally voted on whether to uphold the veto or override it. The vote was 34 to override it and 24 to uphold it. Seven senators were kicked out of the senate in the previous meeting and were not allowed to vote. A 2/3 vote was needed to override the veto. The 2/3 was not met, so the veto was upheld.

Thailandia Alaffita is an undergraduate student at Texas A & M University.

Tags: community organizing and activism · Education · Immigration

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Juan Villanueva // Nov 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Great job Thay! I’m so proud of you, thanks for making this public and WH13P for the veto!

  • 2 Adrian // Nov 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Solid, great reporting on an important student rights battle. Thailandia is a great addition to Latino Politics blog!

  • 3 Tweets that mention Texas A & M’s SB 63-11 -- Topsy.com // Nov 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm

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