District 19 Candidates Fire Back About Undocumented Students

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Congressional Candidates for District 19, Jodey Arrington and Glen Robertson, have been at odds over their stances on immigration policy. Arrington’s campaign said it’s a disagreement that stems from a television ad Robertson’s campaign aired in which Robertson attacked Arrington, suggesting that Arrington’s  leadership led to more undocumented students receiving in-state tuition.

Robertson’s ad starts off claiming that a superpac tied to Arrington falsely attacks Robertson. Then it continues:

“Under Arrington illegal immigrants receiving in-state tuition increased by 400 percent,  while tuition costs for U.S. citizens increased by over 50 percent. Jodey Arrington: in state tuition for illegal immigrants and higher costs for us.”

Jodey Arrington’s campaign sent EverythingLubbock.com a statement  on Wednesday in response to this ad, explaining that Arrington does not support amnesty as Robertson claimed and that Robertson’s ad is “dishonest”.

“I believe in strong border security, using our military if necessary, and no amnesty for illegal immigrants – nothing in Glen’s negative attack ad is true.”

As a part of his statement, Jodey shared responses from three former members of the Texas Tech Board of Regents who believed that Robertson’s ad misrepresented several things. 

“We would normally not get involved in a political campaign, but in an apparent attempt to boost his candidacy, Glen Robertson has chosen to repeatedly attack Texas Tech University and, indirectly, us with distortions that we will not allow to go unchallenged,” the former regents said. 

They explained that during Arrington’s time at Texas Tech, he did not have the authority to set the university’s tuition. 

A provision currently in place  in Texas extends in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants provided that they graduate from high school or receive a GED in Texas, reside in Texas for at least 3 years leading up to high school graduation, live in Texas for 12 months before enrolling in college, and provide a written statement saying they will apply to become a U.S. resident as soon as they are eligible to. Immigration attorney Paola Ledemsa  said this means that Arrington’s leadership while at TTU could not have altered the state law which requires that undocumented students be offered in-state tuition under those conditions. 

This back-and-forth is frustrating for Ledesma who feels this political struggle doesn’t hit the issues which impact immigration the most.

“If you want to use immigration, use it to secure the borders, use it to come up with a good immigration reform which will help all of us, not only immigrants,” she said.

Robertson’s campaign office responded to the statements from Arrington and the former members of the board of regents by continuing his criticism of Arrington’s role at Texas Tech.

“Official documents show an alarming rate of growth of illegal immigrants receiving in-state tuition during Jodey Arrington’s time at Tech, but no evidence whatsoever of Jodey Arrington publicly opposing in-state tuition for illegals,” a statement from Robertson’s office said. 

EverythingLubbock.com asked a spokesman for Robertson if he had any response to the allegations from the former TTU regents against him, that spokesman referred us back to the original press release which makes no mention of the regents. 

On Thursday, EverythingLubbock.com received another statement Arrington responding to Robertson’s claims. 

“Contrary to Glen’s ads, I am not, and never have been in favor of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. We are a nation of laws and they should be fully enforced as part of an effort to secure our borders, turn off the magnets of illegal immigration, and protect our sovereign soil.”

Texas Tech Political Science Professor Timother Nokken said that the back-and-forth between Arrington and Robertson is expected at this time in the campaign season. He added that especially because Arrington and Robertson are two conservatives running in a very conservative region, immigration issues are paramount. 

Nokken said that while negative ads can be effective in helping voters pick a candidate, Robertson’s challenge to Arrington’s record, as it pertain’s to undocumented students, fell short.

“When we talk about contrast ads, there’s a lot  of information you can convey about your candidate, so the example we’re gonna talk about is accusing your opponent of facilitating in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. It is a very informative accusation because it’s drawing upon an actual policy, it’s drawing upon the opponents position, but it’s not completely truthful,” explained Nokken.

Nokken said the ad creates a misleadingly loaded statement, trying to correlate the number of undocumented immigrants on the Tech campus with Arrington’s time in  leadership roles at TTU. The Avalanche Journal reported that the number of undocumented students during Arrington’s time in leadership increased from 14 to 61.

Nokken said that while Robertson’s ad about undocumented students’ tuition at TTU was a risky move, but may not make a difference in overall voter decisions.

“But in a competitive district, this might have been a very risky move for a candidate,” Nokken said. “Especially with a large Latino voting base, to make an accusation like that. Had this been a competitive district it might have shaped the dynamics beyond the runoff into the general election, but that likely won’t be the case here.”

Nokken adds that it is notable that the three former regents rushed to defend against Robertson’s ad.

“I don’t know its because they happened to be supporters of the candidate, or that they’re there to clarify the university’s position. Because fair or not, the accusation implicated the university of devising public policy on its own and that can be very difficult for the university,” he said.

Attorney Paola Ledesma said she recognizes that both Robertson and Arrington don’t support illegal immigration, but wishes that their debate had centered around other aspects of the immigration debate as opposed to undocumented students receiving in-state tuition.

Ledesma represents undocumented students at Texas Tech and said that most who she’s worked with came to the United States when they were very young and attended public schools in Texas for most of their lives.

“What I probably would like people to understand is: even though, these students are going to Texas Tech, they are still paying their tuition, they just probably are paying in-state tuition, they still have to take their SAT’s they have to do everything else like every one else, the only difference is their parents brought them to this country when they were 5 years old for example,” she said.

“There’s  no need to hurt the undocumented students who are trying to go to university,” she said.  Though she added that to her knowledge, neither of the candidates have spoken directly about intentions to change state law regarding student tuition.

Nokken said he expects that Arrington’s campaign will retaliate with a negative ad toward Robertson.

“Now I don’t know for sure, but I know exactly the retaliation I would bring up to him for that, the snowstorm,” Nokken said.

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