TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Children of undocumented immigrants in Florida would be eligible for in-state university tuition, as long as the children were born in the U.S.
The Florida House passed the in-state tuition bill Friday.
Florida has required children of undocumented immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition rates, even if they are U.S citizens. The bill would change that and offer them lower, in-state tuition.
Several lawmakers argued the legislation does not go far enough.
They said Florida should also offer in-state tuition to undocumented children, the so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. An effort to include them in the bill failed.
Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, argued against leaving the Dreamers out of the bill.
"We are leaving people out and that's wrong. We should do more. This was the vehicle to do it. We should've done it this year and the conversation doesn't end. If anything maybe it begins this year but we should do more."
Rep. Hazel Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes, said the bill was the right thing to do.
"We have already invested in these children from K-12 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 on to college at the lower rate."
Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, supported the bill and marveled at the sweeping change of attitude in the House.
"Two years ago, we were discussing the Arizona-type of immigration law in committee and today we are passing tuition protection for those children of illegal immigrants. This is a huge, huge step forward."
Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, saw the bill as the start of a policy change that he hopes will eventually include the Dreamers.
"I think this is a good first step. I think our long-term plan has to be hopefully the federal government will come up with a plan or path to citizenship for our Dreamers and I support that, but I do think this is a step in the right direction."
Bill sponsor Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, said the bill also makes it easier for undocumented children to prove their residency in Florida.
"They are U.S. citizens. They were born in this country, like I was and like many of you were, and deserve this benefit."
The bill passed 111 - 4. Now it heads to the Senate.