Recently, a Senate panel rejected a proposal that would have granted in-state tuition to Florida residents, who are children of undocumented immigrants. Now, as Sascha Cordner reports, a similar bill met the same fate in its first committee stop Thursday.
Senator Gary Siplin of Orlando is a Democratic lawmaker, known for often voting against his own party and siding with Republican lawmakers. During Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, Siplin reminded the panel of his reputation:
“It’s always a pleasure to be before such outstanding Senators who’ve I’ve enjoyed working with on many issues, in terms of the insurance industry, the abortion industry, and other issues in terms of education, and we worked together tirelessly and there’s an occasion when I had to do some things that I did not want do, but because of our friendship and our love, we did those things for you. So, I’m just looking for that reciprocity here today.”
Siplin’s bill essentially would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition.
“Undocumented immigrant students who meet all of the stated requirements will be exempt from paying non-resident tuition at a state university or a Florida college system. In order to qualify, an undocumented immigrant student must attend a Florida high school for three or more years.”
The bill includes a provision that an illegal immigrant would be required to graduate from that high school, and must also register or currently be enrolled in a Florida college or university.
Several students who would benefit from such a proposal came forward and pleaded with the panel to give them a chance to pay in-state tuition. Peter Casavilla is a current Economics major at Miami Dade College.
“Think about paying $1,100 for one class a semester in community college. Think about having multiple jobs to be able to pay for one class. Think about how you have worked all you life and your efforts are worth nothing. You are not giving it to them for free. They would be happy to pay at the in-state level.”
Pamela Gomez says she too would be happy to pay in-state tuition, which would allow her to get her bachelor’s in bio-medical science in a faster manner. Gomez has lived in Florida since the age of six. She graduated from a Florida high school with a high GPA, and she wants to become a doctor.
“I was able to go to the community college of my area, but I am paying three-times more than any other student, even though I’ve been in the state of Florida for 16 years.”
She says despite the setback, she always tells her three siblings not to give up on their dreams and tells them to continue their education.
“…knowing that maybe when they graduate, they’re not going to be able to go to college, because my parents may not be able to pay for four children’s education. So, I stand here before you to ask you to please support this because just like me, there are thousands of students that graduate each year, and I believe the dropout rate would definitely diminish because a lot of students, if they know they’re not going to be able to go to college, they stop trying at an early age.”
Her pleas to pass the measure fell on deaf ears, however, as most of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary committee voted down the measure on a 4 to 3 vote. The only Republican to vote in favor of Siplin’s proposal was Senator Anitere Flores of Miami.
She co-sponsored the bill that was rejected weeks ago that would have allowed U.S. citizens, who are children of undocumented immigrants, to stop paying out-of-state tuition.