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Thursday, June 13, 2024

State Senate to discuss in-state tuition bill

The Florida Senate recently rejected a bill that would allow some children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition, but hope for immigrants might not be lost.

Another bill, which would allow students who immigrated to the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition, is scheduled for debate in the state legislature on Friday.

The bill, SB106, would allow those students to pay resident tuition if they attend high school in Florida for three years, graduate from a Florida high school, register at a Florida college or university and file an affidavit with the university promising to file for residency or citizenship.

The bill, offered by Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, last year, only made it past the judiciary committee. Siplin brought it back this year in an attempt to level the playing field for all students who were educated in the Florida school system, said Siplin's legislative assistant Lakeisha Hood.

The issue is also close to Siplin's heart, Hood said.

Siplin's wife emigrated from Haiti and attended school in Florida, but because she wasn't a citizen, she was forced to pay out-of-state tuition for college.

Although the bill would allow undocumented students to be considered Florida residents for financial reasons, the measure wouldn't protect against deportation.

However, she said, the legal-status affidavit would be handled only by the university where the student is enrolled.

"The affidavit isn't going to send up a red flag to ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] that they're undocumented," she said.

Nichole Teixeira, assistant public relations director for the UF immigrant advocacy group CHISPAS, said the bill would benefit Florida's economy by allowing more students the opportunity to get college degrees.

Without the bill, most undocumented students, who don't qualify for state-funded financial aid, wouldn't be able to pay tuition.

"It sets them up for failure," she said.

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