Texas law cannot change status
Though sometimes called the “Texas Dream Act,” the law is much narrower in scope than the national Dream Act proposed in various forms since 2001.
The federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act also would pertain to certain children brought to the United States illegally by parents or relatives.
But the national legislation would create a new way to give those immigrants legal status and avoid deportation, if they have stayed out of trouble and were in school or the military.
State law does not (and cannot) change immigrants’ legal status. Texas’ law only requires that the students sign an affidavit saying they intend to apply for permanent residency as soon as they’re able to do so.
Twelve other states have tuition laws like Texas’, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website. And that website confirms that Texas was the first state to pass one, followed four months later by California.
Was this Texas law a “Dream Act,” even though it could not change students’ legal status?
Gov. Rick Perry spoke of the “Texas dream” in a speech soon after he signed the law, telling the Southwest Voters Registration Education Project that he approved it “so that young Texans who graduated from our public schools, regardless of their immigration status, will be able to pay in-state tuition and take part in the Texas dream. We want bright, new Texans to stay here and contribute great things to our future.”
A Nov. 15, 2011, American-Statesman news story said the Texas law is “commonly referred to as the Texas Dream Act.” We found similar references in news stories going back to 2004.
In California and New York, news stories from 2007 through 2011 reserved the “Dream Act: term for legislation going further than the tuition laws already on those states’ books — granting eligibility for financial aid or driver’s licenses, for example.
Hernández agreed the Texas law isn’t equivalent to the national legislation.
When he was helping advocate the state law, he told us, “we didn’t call it the Dream Act.”
But there is common ground, he said. “We’re talking about the same kids, and we’re talking about finding ways to live a life in this nation,” he said. “I think that’s why many of us say it’s a type of Dream Act.”
Our ruling: Texas was the first state to permit in-state tuition for certain children in the country illegally.
But like other states’ laws, its measure did not — could not — go as far as federal versions offering a possible path to citizenship and should not be confused with the federal Dream Act.
We rate the claim Mostly True.