The Associated Press
MEXICO CITY, June 19, 2001 Mexico's government on Monday praised a new Texas law that allows undocumented immigrants who attended Texas high schools to pay in-state tuition at state universities.
"On Sunday, the U.S.-Mexican border ceased to be a barrier to the education of migrants," said a news release issued by the Presidential Office for Mexicans Abroad.
"Texas has become the first state to allow its migrants to realize the keystone of the American dream: attaining a college education at an affordable price."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Sunday signed the bill which allows immigrants who have lived in Texas at least three years and earned a GED or high school diploma from a Texas school to attend the state's universities on in-state tuition levels instead of paying international fees.
Those who qualify are first-time college students. They must sign an affidavit stating they will apply for permanent resident status when they are eligible.
"In terms of real access for migrants, this is the equivalent of the reforms in the 1960s and 1970s that allowed qualifed African-Americans and Mexican-Americans to enter the nation's best universities," said Juan Hernandez, director of the presidential office.
Hernandez had visited Texas during legislative debate on the measure to explain the Mexican government's position to lawmakers.
About 3,000 students would be eligible in the fall. Hernan-dez's office said many of them have lived in the state since childhood.
"Fear of immigration officials should not stop migrant students from making the most important contribution of all to the United States: educating themselves so they can give back to society," Hernandez said.
Hernandez said California is considering a measure that would give 1,000 Mexican students the right to pay in-state tuition while giving the same privilege to California students who want to study in Mexico.
"We in Mexico are doing our best to improve education here," Hernandez said. "But for these students who have gone to high school in Texas, we are thrilled the doors are open for them to study there."