A senate judiciary panel has put a major block to proposed legislation which would allow undocumented students in Florida to pay in-state tuition. The senate’s decision means that the proposed law will not pass the Florida Legislature this year, although legislators may still choose to propose similar bills in subsequent years. In Florida, Senators Oscar Braynon, Arthenia Joyner, and Anitere Flores voted for the legislation and Senators John Thrasher, David Simmons, Garrett Richter, and Andy Gardiner voted against the DREAM Act.
The proposed law would have allowed undocumented immigrants with a GED of high school diploma from Florida to apply for state schools and pay in-state tuition. Students and immigration rights advocates have been supporting the law, saying that the legislation would make college more accessible to thousands of immigrant students. Under the current system, undocumented students pay out-of-state tuition rates, even if they have lived in Florida for years. This means that they pay about three times the tuition paid by other Florida students. Undocumented students also have far less access to financial aid than other students. According to experts, this makes it far more challenging for undocumented students to get the education they need for good jobs.
Those who support the legislation in Florida point out that the current system punishes students for mistakes their parents have made. In many cases, they argue, children are brought into the US by their parents when parents decide to immigrate into the country illegally. The children are too young to have any impact on their parents’ decisions yet the current system ensures that children continue to suffer the effects well into adulthood.
Those who oppose the legislation claim that the DREAM Act and proposed legislation such as the legislation in Florida removes punishment for illegal immigration, effectively encouraging illegal immigration. Some Senators have also expressed concerns about the increased costs for state universities and colleges if the bill were to pass. David Simmons, R-Orlando called the proposed legislation a “band-aid” solution and said that he would only support more comprehensive solutions for the problem.
The fight in Florida is part of the larger push for the DREAM Act, proposed federal legislation designed to give more rights to children of undocumented immigrants. The DREAM Act would allow children of undocumented immigrants to get permanent residency in the US through military service or by enrolling in college or university. Despite wide-spread support, however, DREAM Act has not passed into law.