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Higher Education for FL Undocumented Students Again at Risk

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A new bill would make it harder for undocumented immigrants to go to college in Florida, even if they graduated from Florida high schools. (kconnors/morguefile)
A new bill would make it harder for undocumented immigrants to go to college in Florida, even if they graduated from Florida high schools. (kconnors/morguefile)
December 7, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A bill introduced in the Florida Senate could alter the plans of thousands of students who have grown up in Florida.

Under the proposal by newly-elected Republican Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota, Florida's public colleges and universities would no longer have to waive out-of-state fees for undocumented students, even if they attended high school in the state.

Julio Calderon is an Access to College organizer for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and one of close to 3,000 students who have benefited from the program since it launched in 2014. He calls it "life-changing."

"Understanding that it might be taken away, it's really disappointing," he said. "We belong here and we're part of this society, and we believe that we should also be given that opportunity."

After much debate, the initial bill passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, and was hailed at the time by Governor Rick Scott as "historic." Steube, however, who also opposed the legislation while serving in the House, claims it is an issue he heard about from many constituents on the campaign trail.

Calderon said the state has already invested in the future of undocumented students, many of whom have spent most of their lives in Florida.

"This is not an ask, this is something that we deserve and this is something that we should have, because we also pay taxes, and we help the economy," he added.

The introduction of Steube's bill drew sharp rebukes from some lawmakers, and advocates for immigrants in the state are concerned that this sort of debate will only fuel fears already swirling since the election of Donald Trump. Trump has vowed to roll back executive orders that removed the deportation threat for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL