Student Government met Sept. 25 to vote, debate and hear student commentary regarding the possibility of bringing an immigration attorney to campus.
Alex Molina, political science junior and Student Government senator, co-authored the legislation. The legislation called to establish an immigration lawyer at the university, to assist and offer legal advice to all currently enrolled students with immigration-related issues.
The resolution was struck down in a final roll call vote of 20-19 when one Senator, Maggie Shivers, public relations senior abstained.
The proposal failed amidst large student support at the Sept. 25 meeting as senators chose to suspend the rules during the public forum and allowed eight speakers to address the chamber regarding the piece of legislation.
Student Body President Connor Clegg gave a report at the beginning of the night was focused on how infeasible it was to attain the goal of an immigration attorney. He told the chamber it had a responsibility to pass a proposal that could be achieved by the powers of the administration.
“There is no way to hire an immigration attorney and that makes me upset,” Clegg said.
Although Student Government did not vote to bring in an attorney, the legislation addressed the International Office at Texas State and its contract with an outside lawyer.
“Texas State International Office currently contracts an immigration lawyer to file the proper paperwork for international students to apply for residency and work visas, but does not have the ability to advise students about their individual immigration status,” the proposal read.
Even when organizations for undocumented immigrants like the Student Community of Progressive Empowerment try to assist the undocumented community, they struggle to put on events like DACA clinics because of the lack of immigration attorneys and immigration-related resources in San Marcos.
Yunuen Alvarado, journalism sophomore, serves as SCOPE’s president. Alvarado said the city has a lack of resources for this community.
“It’s embarrassing to have to ask people to come to help when San Marcos has nothing,” Alvarado said. “This attorney would serve all students, just like the other attorneys. We all have questions. Student Government serves all students regardless of status.”
In response to the resolution, Shivers and one member from the public proposed more funding go toward the international office to support the work it does for students instead of hiring an immigration attorney.
Molina defended his piece, stating the immigration attorney would function using the same model as the attorney for students and the resource could be utilized by all students on campus.
Prior to this legislation proposal, if a student had immigration status-related questions and turned to the Office of the Attorney for Students, they would be redirected to an immigration attorney in the Austin area.
An F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa international students must file to attend their respective institutions. Students must file F-1s on their own, but if they do it wrong, their visa will likely be denied. F-1 visas have been compared to the FAFSA of immigration.
“If we’re not offering these resources or services to help graduate them (undocumented or international students), there’s obviously a gap in services,” Molina said. “Bringing in these international resources, faculty and students will help us become more of a Hispanic Serving Institution, help our students and help take us to the next level like Texas A&M and The University of Texas at Austin.”
Eli Miller, criminal justice junior, sponsored the legislation and criticized the body for not representing 35 percent of the university.
“We pride ourselves on being a Hispanic-Serving Institution; now it’s time to walk the walk,” Miller said.
At the end of the meeting, a group of students came in to protest the vote’s result. They shouted at the body and called for Student Government to better represent its constituency.
The following morning, on Sept. 26, Clegg released a letter to students concerning the legislation and chartered the Student Government Subcommittee on Serving International and Immigrant Students.
“I will be chartering the Student Government Subcommittee on Serving International and Immigrant Students, which will be tasked with the responsibility of working together towards a practical and tangible solution to the concerns we all share,” Clegg said.