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Law Granting In State Tuition To U.S. Born Florida Students Passes House

Should the U.S. born children of undocumented immigrants be allowed to attend Florida colleges and universities at the in-state tuition price? The Florida House of Representative thinks so. The House passed a measure Friday that lets those students pay in-state rather than out-of state tuition provided they can prove they actually reside in Florida.

Historically, the children of undocumented immigrants have been forced to pay a higher out-of state tuition price to attend Florida colleges, regardless of where they live or where they went to high school. But last year, a federal court ruled that Florida must grant in-state tuition to U.S. citizens who live in Florida, regardless of their parent’s immigration status. And now, House lawmakers are adding that to the state’s books, although sponsor, Representative Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami) said the bill does more than just follow the court ruling.

“This bill does more than simply codify the Ruiz v. Robinson court case. This bill allows these students an alternative, an additional pathway by which they can prove their residency, which they still have to do. The court case does not allow them to get away from proving their residency in the state of Florida. We are making it easier for them to prove their residency,” Nunez said.

Nunez said the bill also helps veterans and reservists get in-state tuition in Florida. And Representative Hazel Rogers,(D-Lauderdale Lakes) said she’s glad to see the bill getting a vote. Rogers, an immigrant herself, co-sponsored a similar bill last year, and said while she’s not happy it took a court order for the measure to move forward, she’s glad it has.

“We have already invested in these children. From K-12th grade, they are mandated that they must go to school, so they are. This is a return on your investment by allowing them to go to college at the lower rate,” Rogers said.

Meanwhile, Representative Jose Rodriguez, (D-Miami) said he hoped for bill that would do more.

“U.S. citizens who have undocumented parents are benefiting from that ruling already that we are now implementing. If we are going to be removing barriers for non-citizen children, there are things that we could be doing. There’s legislation here to expand the Kid Care program,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said, he’d like to see the state expand the law to offer undocumented Floridians in-state tuition as well. But Representative Frank Artiles, (R-Miami) said pushing for too much at a time is a mistake.

“While I understand this does not address all the inequities we have throughout the state of Florida and the nation, this is a huge step forward. Two years ago, we were discussing an Arizona style immigration law in committee and today we are passing tuition," Artiles said.

The measure passed out of the full House with four votes against it. 

For more news updates, follow @regan_mccarthy on twitter!

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Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.