Florida lawmakers back in-state tuition for undocumented students

TALLAHASSEE, Florida Fri May 2, 2014 6:18pm EDT

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Florida legislators voted on Friday to allow students who are children of undocumented workers to qualify for in-state tuition rates at public universities and community colleges.

Republican Governor Rick Scott said he will sign the bill, making Florida the 20th state to offer children brought to the United States illegally the same tuition as U.S. citizens.

The approval of the legislation comes as Scott faces a tight re-election campaign and Florida Republicans look to court the state's influential Hispanic voters.

Early in his term, Scott stated publicly he would not support the legislation.

Riding a Tea Party wave of conservative support in 2010, Scott campaigned on a promise to bring Florida a law like Arizona's hotly debated statute allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone they believe may be undocumented.

He abandoned that idea after it failed in his first legislative session as governor. But in late 2011, he told Newsmax website that "with regard to in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, I completely oppose that."

Now in a close campaign against his predecessor, former Governor Charlie Crist, Scott has been trying to appeal to Florida's large and politically active Latino community.

He recently chose former state Representative Carlos Lopez Cantera of Miami as his lieutenant governor and publicly pressured lawmakers to take up the in-state tuition bill, which passed the House in an 84-32 vote on Friday. Senators approved the legislation on Thursday.

When asked about his change on the issue, Scott cast his position as an advocacy of keeping college costs low for working families.

Out-of-state tuition is about four times the in-state rate.

"We are trying to right the wrongs of the previous administration that raised the price of a college education and opposed providing in-state tuition for children of immigrants," said Scott.

"The Legislature did the right thing, and I look forward to signing this historic legislation."

Scott pointedly mentioned that Crist, elected as a Republican but now running as a Democrat, had also opposed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in the past.

As soon as the bill cleared the Legislature, the Florida Democratic Party distributed a video clip of Scott's 2011 remark that he would "completely oppose that" - along with quotes from his remarks to reporters earlier on Friday when he insisted his position had not changed.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (3)
agwisreal wrote:
Texas already does this. The logic seems solid: whatever one may think about the wisdom of an immigration system that results in large numbers of persons living and working in the US even though the laws on the books say they may not be here and should be deported, that system is not going to be exchanged for one that enforces the law to the letter. It’s just not going to happen. So, what to do about the reality that young people who aren’t citizens and aren’t here legally are here and mostly here to stay?

Better they get however much education they can hold. Including college. That way, the ones that graduate, they’re here and working at jobs that require some upscale skills. Otherwise, they’d have been here and working at jobs beneath their potential. That’s whacked.

May 03, 2014 1:14am EDT  --  Report as abuse
TheNewWorld wrote:
I don’t understand why you hae an out of state tuition and an in state tuition. Is it 4 times as hard to educate people from out side of Florida? One rate for everyone please. We give student visas out by the millions. This is really a non issue and everyone should do it.

May 03, 2014 3:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
euro-yank wrote:
@TheNewWorld – FYI the reason for differing tuition rates is the assumption that in-state students have parents who paid state taxes and thus already contributed to the state university.

May 04, 2014 1:01am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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