Florida’s New Tuition Law for Immigrants

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

In a complete about-turn, the State of Florida has passed a new law that allows immigrant students, even those who are undocumented, to qualify for in-state tuition rates if they meet certain criteria. This is a total change from a state law that had been passed some time back (and struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court) that denied immigrant students, especially the undocumented, in-state tuition rates unless they could prove that their parents were either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Such a law penalized young people who, even if legal in the United States, could not receive in-state tuition if their parents were not legally here. This guilt by association clause was struck down by all federal courts, and rightfully so.

The new law, supported by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, will now make it possible for any and all immigrant young people to be able to have a shot at going to college. Before, they were forced to pay the equivalent out-of-state tuition rates for college or university. Such rates are three times the in-state rates, and thus putting college beyond the bounds of so many immigrant young people. This has now changed, and in my view it is a change for the better and a win-win scenario. It is a win-win for those young people who came to this country and now can go on to higher education which hopefully will land them better jobs and better opportunities in life. It is a win-win for Florida because it means that now there will be more young people who can make a difference for the economy and culture of that state.

Even though Florida is a largely Republican-ruled state, many Republicans as well as Democrats in Florida are beginning to see that there is a growing segment of young people who came to this country, legally or otherwise, who are having an impact on the economics and society of this country. There is no way to reverse this, and more important they will have to be integrated into mainstream American society sooner or later. While some states are still trying to marginalize immigrant young people, Florida has decided to do the opposite. The state legislators in Florida have come to realize that immigrant young people come from all over the world, and their knowledge and experiences will create a better future for Florida. I wonder how many other U.S. states are thinking along these lines?

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