Texas conservatives are looking to roll back a law that allows undocumented immigrants brought here as children to pay in-state tuition to attend state universities.

The four leading GOP candidates for lieutenant governor want to overturn the state’s 2001 version of the DREAM Act, the Dallas Morning News reports. The position is sure to draw criticism from Latino politicians responsible for passing the law, even as the Republican party launches a seven-state outreach effort to boost its popularity among Latinos after Mitt Romney’s poor performance among Hispanics in the 2012 election.

Dan Patrick, a Republican state senator representing Houston, got the ball rolling this week with an ad trumpeting his opposition to illegal immigration.

“If Sam Houston, Travis, Bowie and Austin were here today, they would be proud of Texas, but they would be ashamed of Washington,” Patrick says in the ad. “Illegal immigration is Washington’s responsibility, but it’s our problem.”

Sam Houston, William Travis, James Bowie and Stephen Austin were part of a wave of Anglo-American immigrants to what was then northern Mexico in the early 19th century. Travis immigrated illegally, according to the Texas State Historical Association’s “Handbook of Texas.” Migrants from the United States wound up outnumbering Mexican nationals and wrested the territory from Mexican control, along with the support of several Tejano leaders, in the Texas Revolution in 1836.

The ad goes on to incorrectly say that he’s the “only candidate for lieutenant governor to oppose in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.” In fact, three of his Republican rivals -- Lt. Gov. David Dewhurt, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples – also oppose the measure.

“It’s unfortunate seeing everybody clamor to see who can be the most extreme on that,” Art Martinez de Vara, a co-founder of the Texas Federal of Hispanic Republicans, told the Dallas Morning News.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry faced criticism for signing the law from immigration hawks within his party during the GOP presidential primary in 2011. He defended his decision, saying of the DREAM Act’s opponents: “I don’t think you have a heart.”

But his words haven’t convinced his contemporaries in Texas.

“[T]he GOP candidates for the lieutenant governor’s job are abandoning Perry’s position and effectively competing to see who can out-conservative each other,” Dallas Morning News editorial writer Tod Robberson wrote Wednesday. “In other words, who can be more heartless.”

The Texas education bill’s sponsor, Rick Noriega, represented Houston as a Democrat for five terms in the Texas House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009, before going on to become president and CEO of Avance, an educational nonprofit.

"The intent of the law was to have more kids go to college," Noriega told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram back 2011, when Perry took heat from immigration hawks during the GOP primary over the bill. "It's been incredibly successful."

Roughly 16,000 undocumented students attended Texas colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates in 2010, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

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  • The U.S.-Mexico border is violent

    It certainly is in some places, but those don't tend to be on the U.S. side. In fact, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/08/2-us-mexico-border-cities_n_2647897.html">El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California are the two safest cities in the country</a>, according to Congressional Quarterly. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/jan-brewer-border-enforcement_n_2677777.html">While Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has repeatedly said the border in her state is dangerous</a>, crime statistics reported by USA Today and The Huffington Post show that violent crime has dropped along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, as well as California, New Mexico and Texas.

  • The porous U.S.-Mexico border is vulnerable to terrorists

    That’s not the assessment of the U.S. government. The Mexico section of the most recent <a href="http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/195768.pdf">State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism reads</a>: <blockquote>No known international terrorist organization had an operational presence in Mexico and no terrorist group targeted U.S. citizens in or from Mexican territory. There was no evidence of ties between Mexican criminal organizations and terrorist groups, nor that the criminal organizations had political or territorial control, aside from seeking to protect and expand the impunity with which they conduct their criminal activity.</blockquote> H/T: <a href="http://borderfactcheck.com/">Washington Office on Latin America</a>.

  • The border is insecure

    Depends on how you define "secure." By practically all measurements, the border is at its most secure point in recent history. There's more than <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/may/10/barack-obama/obama-says-border-patrol-has-doubled-number-agents/">20,000 Border Patrol agents stationed along the border now</a> -- about double the number since 2004. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/border-funding-needed-immigration-apprehensions/story?id=18465102">Apprehensions along the border, one of the most reliable measures of illegal entry</a>, are at their lowest level in 40 years. But <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/23/what-does-a-secure-border_n_2749419.html?utm_hp_ref=world&ir=World">politicians have yet to agree on how to define what "secure" will mean</a> for legal purposes.

  • Obama has been soft on enforcement

    Not so. In fact, it's one of the biggest gripes immigration activists have with him. While Obama has exempted many people who came to the United States as children from deportation, he has also set records, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/us/advocates-push-obama-to-halt-aggressive-deportation-efforts.html?_r=0">deporting over 400,000 people last fiscal year and removing more migrants</a> in one term than George W. Bush did in two.

  • The U.S. hasn't committed enough resources to securing the border

    Again, depends on who you ask. The $18 billion the federal government spent on border enforcement in the 2012 fiscal year was more than it spent on than on other law enforcement agencies combined, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/07/immigration-enforcement-cost_n_2425647.html">according to the Migration Policy Institute</a> -- about 15 times more than it did in the mid-1980s. Is that enough, especially in a context in which illegal immigration stands at net zero? If, not, what is?

  • Illegal immigration continues to skyrocket

    Nope. For all the talk from outraged politicians, you'd think that immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border remains at historically high levels. In fact, <a href="http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/04/23/net-migration-from-mexico-falls-to-zero-and-perhaps-less/">illegal immigration from Mexico has dropped to net zero or less</a>, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.