House Bill 1403, widely known as the Texas DREAM Act, provides in-state tuition for Texans without legal status. House Bill (HB) 1403, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2001, provides Texans, regardless of legal immigration status, eligibility to be classified as state residents for the purpose of being charged in-state tuition rates at public Texas colleges and universities. Without this eligibility, institutions of higher learning would charge the higher out-of-state or international tuition rates. Texas was the first state in the nation to pass this type of legislation, and approximately twenty states followed with similar bills.
The Seventy-seventh Texas Legislature passed HB 1403 with bipartisan support. Representative Rick Noriega (D–Houston) authored the measure, in collaboration with Domingo García (D¬–Dallas), Fred Hill (R–Richardson), Elvira Reyna (R–Mesquite), and Ismael Flores (D–Palmview). Leticia Van de Putte (D–San Antonio) sponsored the bill. An additional nineteen co-authors signed the bill. Sixty-three House Republicans voted in favor of it. With an amendment from the Senate, HB 1403 passed with 130 yeas, 2 nays, and 2 abstentions. Governor Rick Perry signed the bill into law on June 16, 2001, and the legislation became effective immediately for persons seeking college enrollment in the fall of 2001.
HB 1403 stipulates that Texas students without legal status must meet certain criteria to be eligible for in-state tuition rates. While in high school, they must be a dependent of a parent or guardian living in Texas; graduate from a Texas high school or obtain a GED certificate; reside in Texas for at least three years prior to graduating from high school; register with a Texas public college or university beginning in the fall of 2001; and file an application to seek permanent residency in the United States.
In the years since the passage of HB 1403, legislators have tried to repeal the law. The growing influence of conservative legislators, including the recent election of a like-minded governor and lieutenant governor, presented formidable challenges to the law in 2015. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick campaigned against the law, and Governor Greg Abbott said that he would not veto a repeal of the law if passed by the legislature. Groups such as Texans for Immigration Reduction and Enforcement and Tea Party adherents mobilized support for repeal legislation such as the proposed Senate Bill (SB) 1819. On the other hand, the Texas Association of Business, religious groups, labor unions, and university groups that included students without legal status, and other allies united in support of HB 1403. Democratic legislators, particularly those associated with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, also voiced support for the original legislation.
Conservative members of the Eighty-fourth Texas Legislature introduced SB 1819 that stated that Texas residents “unauthorized to be present in the United States” could not be “considered a resident of this state for the purposes of receiving in-state tuition….” While the bill advanced from committee hearings, it failed to meet the deadline to be heard by the Senate for a vote. Public pressure and political maneuvering managed to defeat the repeal efforts, however, the strong opposition to HB 1403 indicated that the idea of providing in-state tuition to Texans without legal status would remain contentious in the state.