College Students Deserve to Learn, Not Fear Deportation

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I have had the good fortune to engage in public policy advocacy alongside college students who care deeply about the future of our state. These young people are some of the smartest and most dedicated advocates I’ve known. They often travel long distances across the state and stay up all night so they can testify at the Capitol and finish their homework. Many are the first in their families to go to college. They are proud of their heritage, committed to their communities, and determined to solve entrenched problems. In other words, they are just the kind of hardworking leaders Texas needs. Some of these students happen to be undocumented; mostly they came to the United States as young children.

This Wednesday, the House will vote on SB 4, which – among other negative consequences for immigrant families – threatens the future of these remarkable college students by requiring campus police to enforce federal immigration law. This unwise bill stands in stark contrast to the sensible Texas Dream Act, passed in 2001 with overwhelming bipartisan support, which enables immigrant students to pay in-state tuition at Texas colleges. Immigrant students who attend Texas colleges because of the Texas Dream Act are already contributing to the Texas economy — they paid $58.3 million in tuition and fees at Texas colleges in 2015.

Now, SB 4 threatens these promising students with the fear of deportation on college campuses. This climate of fear is antithetical to learning and is likely to lead many students to leave school for fear of deportation, depriving our state of their many talents.

We call on elected leaders to vote no on SB 4, and to support an amendment that would remove campus police from the bill. Instead of frightening college students and families, let’s return to our strong tradition of embracing immigrant culture and leading the nation with common-sense policies that provide a pathway to opportunity for young people of all backgrounds.

A renowned social justice lawyer, former philanthropy executive, and frequent public speaker and writer, Ann Beeson joined the Center in 2013. She was previously the Executive Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, where she promoted human rights, justice, and accountability nationwide. Beeson was the national Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she worked from 1995-2007. She argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, litigated numerous cases around the country, and launched groundbreaking programs to stop the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security and to protect free speech and privacy on the Internet. Beeson has been recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers by American Lawyer Magazine and the National Law Journal. A proud Texan, Beeson has embraced a wide range of innovative strategies to advance social change. Before joining the Center, she launched a new non-profit to involve the creative sector in social change. In 2012-13, she was a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas, where she co-produced a public media series to inspire more people to get engaged in their communities. She grew up in Dallas, Texas, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Texas. Beeson obtained her law degree from Emory University School of Law, and served as law clerk to the Honorable Barefoot Sanders, then chief judge of the Northern District of Texas.

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