The Truth-O-Meter Says:
Santorum

Says Rick Perry "provided in-state tuition... for illegal immigrants."

Rick Santorum on Thursday, September 1st, 2011 in a Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Florida.

Rick Santorum says Rick Perry provided in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants

At the Sept. 22, 2011, Fox News-Google debate in Orlando, Mitt Romney expanded on his disagreement with a Texas law affording some illegal immigrants in-state tuition to public colleges and universities.

Fox News reporter Chris Wallace noted that Romney had vetoed such a proposal when he was governor of Massachusetts. Wallace then asked: "What about Gov. (Rick) Perry's argument that it's better to get these kids an education and to get them jobs than to consign them just to being a burden on the state?"

"It's an argument I just can't follow," Romney replied. "I've got be honest with you, I don't see how it is that a state like Texas -- to go to the University of Texas, if you're an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount."

In advance of the debate, we were reviewing another presidential aspirant’s claim about the Texas law. In the Sept. 12 debate in Tampa, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Perry had "provided in-state tuition for -- for illegal immigrants. Maybe that was an attempt to attract the illegal vote -- I mean, the Latino voters. But you attract Latino voters by talking about the importance of immigration in this country."

Setting aside whether Santorum equated illegal immigrants with Latino Americans, did Perry give a tuition break to people who are in the U.S. illegally?

Perry responded: "In the state of Texas, if you've been in the state of Texas for three years, if you're working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there. ... And I'm proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, ‘You go be on the government dole.’ "

Indeed, as we noted in a 2010 fact check, Perry proudly signed into law on June 16, 2001, a proposal allowing certain illegal immigrants to attend Texas colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates. Undocumented immigrants with a Texas high school diploma or GED who have lived in Texas for at least three years may qualify for in-state tuition if they sign an affidavit saying they intend to apply for permanent residency as soon as they can.

From 2002 to 2010, according to the coordinating board, 35,200 students used the affidavit method to attend Texas colleges or universities at in-state tuition rates.The annual number of beneficiaries rose from 733 in 2002 to 16,476 in 2010, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

And "affidavit" students pay far less than what they’d pay as non-residents. On average in 2011, a non-resident, full-time student would be expected to pay an estimated $17,000 in tuition and fees, according to Texas public universities, while an in-state resident would be paying $7,200.

Texas isn’t alone with such a provision. Nationally, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 13 states passed such proposals into law in the wake of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. Signed by President Clinton, the act sought to prevent states from giving an in-state tuition benefit to illegal immigrants that is not available to legal residents.

Legislatures in Texas, California and other states responded with measures intended to preserve in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants. Other states banned illegal immigrants from getting in-state tuition rates; Indiana passed such a law last month, as the Indianapolis Star reported Aug. 31.

In Texas, lawmakers approved House Bill 1403 with few "no" votes. After signing it into law, Perry said in a speech to 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."

Six years later, Perry opposed an attempt to repeal the measure, telling the Houston Chronicle: "I’m for leaving the law like it is because I think it serves a good purpose." He reiterated his support during the 2010 Texas gubernatorial campaign.

Perry’s comments at the Sept. 12 and Sept. 22 debates aligned with his previously supportive statements.

All told, Perry isn’t solely responsible for the Texas law enabling illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition, but he signed it into existence and has stood by it. We rate Santorum’s claim as True.

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About this statement:

Published: Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 at 11:14 p.m.

Subjects: Education, Immigration

Sources:

CNN, CNN/Tea Party Express Republican Debate, transcript, September 12, 2011

PolitiFact Texas Truth-O-Meter item, "Perry says the TEA checks whether undocumented students are applying for permanent residency," February 14, 2010

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, chart, "Affidavit Students per Fiscal Year, Texas," received Sept. 20, 2011

Video clip from Republican presidential debate, "Rick Santorum Explains How GOP Can Attract 'Illegal -- I Mean Latino -- Voters," September 12, 2011 (posted to Youtube by TalkingPointsMemo.com)

House Bill 1403, 2001 Texas Legislature

Text of House Bill 1403, "77(R) HB 1403 Enrolled Version - Bill Text," Texas Legislature

Email interview with Dominic Chavez, senior director for external relations, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Sept. 19-20, 2011

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, chart, "Overview: Residency and In-State Tuition," September 2008

National Conference of State Legislatures, "In-State Tuition and Unauthorized Immigrant Students," , July 8, 2011 revision

Indianapolis Star, news article, "New law means students in country illegally now have to pay in-state tuition," August 31, 2011

Office of Gov. Rick Perry, speech, "Remarks to The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project," June 11, 2001

Houston Chronicle, news article, "Perry defends illegal-immigrant tuition," January 12, 2007

Written by: Sue Owen
Researched by: Sue Owen
Edited by: Jody Seaborn, W. Gardner Selby

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