Texas governor ready to challenge immigrant children’s education

Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for many public benefits. Texas offers less than most states.

Edna Yang of American Gateways, a Texas immigration legal services provider, said that illegal immigrants in the state are only eligible for a small number of benefits, including emergency medical services, child food aid, and public education.

The governor’s office said the cost for each additional student enrolled in Texas public schools is about $6,100 annually, not including the cost of providing bilingual and special education services, which adds more than $2,000 in additional spending.

The state comptroller last examined the issue in 2006. The report found that while it cost undocumented children about $1 billion for education at the time, unauthorized immigration to the state had an overall positive effect on the Texas economy. Huennekens, of the Immigration Reform Group, said the state’s programs for students with limited English proficiency cost more than $7 billion in 2016.

Banning undocumented students could upend the system for everyone, said Ziv Capo, president of the Texas AFT, the teachers’ union, who said schools could lose government per-pupil funding accompanying those students as well as additional money sent in by the federal government. “All undocumented children are not all in one school or in one school district,” he said. “You will hurt everyone.”

Attitudes on immigration have changed in Texas, as past Republican governors such as George W. Bush and Rick Perry have adopted relatively moderate tones. Mr. Perry, during his tenure, signed a law allowing undocumented college students to access in-state tuition and financial aid at Texas public universities.

But taking a hard line on immigration was a political comfort zone for Mr. Abbott. He used the issue to beat his rivals in the Republican primaries, and returned it in his general election contest against Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat and former congressman from El Paso.