President Flores Publishes Houston Chronicle Op-Ed on "Dreamers"
UHD President Bill Flores wrote the following op-ed about the importance of the Texas Dream Act for students, which was published in the Houston Chronicle on Monday, May 4.
By: Dr. William Flores
Wendy Ramirez is an outstanding biology major at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD). She is in UHD's Scholars Academy, a competitive program for students majoring in STEM fields. She is determined to become a physician - a commitment she made after her father was paralyzed in an automobile accident. While excelling academically at UHD, she has been a leader on and off campus, serving as secretary of the Student Government Association, in addition to receiving the UHD President and First Lady's Award for Community Engagement for her volunteerism and service to others.
Ramirez's future looks very bright. Graduating from college and attending medical school would make a huge difference in her life and in the lives of her family members. She lives at Casa Juan Diego, a home for immigrant families in Houston.
Ramirez also is an immigrant who is in the U.S. without proper documents, and she is closely following the legislative session. She and other students like her have reason to be concerned. This session, if Texas legislators pass Senate Bill 1819 - sponsored by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels - it will effectively slam the door in the face of these students who have sacrificed mightily to achieve their highest potential.
If Senate Bill 1819 becomes law, Ramirez will have to pay out-of-state tuition, something she cannot afford, as she would have to pay $400 more per semester credit hour. Tuition for a standard three-hour college course would increase by $1,200; the cost for one semester would suddenly increase by almost $6,000. This added burden will effectively halt the dreams of hardworking students who were raised in Texas, speak English fluently, graduated from Texas high schools and excel academically.
In 2001, when the state Legislature passed the Texas Dream Act (House Bill 1403), Texas took the national stage by becoming the first state in the nation to allow certain students who are in the country without authorization and who attend public colleges and universities to pay in-state tuition. Over the next decade, 19 states followed Texas' lead. In 2011, Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the bill into law, reiterated his support, stating, "To punish these young Texans for their parents' actions is not what America has always been about."
Adoption of Senate Bill 1819 would send shock waves across all Texas public universities, affecting not only the students themselves, but the countless family members and dependents they support.
The Institute on Taxes and Economic Policy reports that workers without documents and their families paid more than $91 million in state sales and school taxes in 2010. Throughout Texas, nearly 25,000 students who were brought to the country illegally as children - "Dreamers" - annually contribute more than $51 million to the economy. Texas needs an educated workforce. We have a shortage of teachers, engineers, scientists and other professionals, and Dreamers want to help fill that need.
UHD has 380 such Dreamers. Many work several jobs to pay the cost of attending college. They long to contribute to society, and their combined potential is immeasurable. But by repealing the Texas Dream Act, we risk making it impossible for many of them to pursue their dreams and reach their potential. The effect for them, their families and our society would be devastating.
Our future lies with our most gifted young students - including those who are in the country without proper documents like Wendy Ramirez. Closing doors to these young people would be a terrible tragedy. Let's keep those doors open; Texas benefits from their success.
Flores is president of University of Houston-Downtown.