Ahead Of Election, Florida Governor Supports In-State Tuition For Undocumented Immigrants

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott


Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said Wednesday that he would back a Senate proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition, so long as they meet certain requirements.

“I want tuition to be lower,” Scott (R) said Wednesday. “It’s unbelievable how much tuition has gone up.”

Scott said that he would support the proposal if he can also limit annual tuition increases for all students at state universities, but the move may also be aimed at attracting Latino voters, who made up 17 percent of all voters in the 2012 Florida general election (President Obama carried 60 percent of the Latino vote then). Last June, Scott vetoed a driver’s license bill for recipients of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Although the details of the final state House bill will likely be revised to “restrict the ability of colleges and universities to set tuition rates,” the House tuition bill would prohibit “denial of classification as resident for tuition purposes based on certain immigration status.” It also would likely include the same requirements as other similar state-level “Dream Act” bills, like ensuring that an undocumented immigrant attended a Florida high school for two years and graduated. Currently, many undocumented Floridian students must pay three to four times more in out-of-state tuition.

For ten years, the Florida “DREAM Act” bill has floundered in the state legislature, but the bill may finally have legs this year. That’s because Florida International University and Miami Dade College started to grant partial tuition waivers to undocumented youths, who were granted temporary deportation reprieve and work authorization, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

According to a top Florida Republican to the Miami Herald, Scott’s recent poll numbers are “awful,“– a factor that may help explain why he’s supporting immigration-friendly legislation eight months before the gubernatorial election. It doesn’t help Scott appointed a lieutenant governor who once supported legislation “similar to Arizona’s racial profiling law.” The lieutenant governor, former Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R-FL), called it a “reasonable and effective approach to immigration reform.” Former Republican state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan cited Lopez-Cantera as one of her reasons for leaving the Republican party.

But Scott’s also not the only gubernatorial candidate who is pandering to Latino and minority voters ahead of the election. Just one month before New Jersey’s gubernatorial election, Gov. Chris Christie (R) told the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey that he supported tuition equity for undocumented students. After winning 51 percent of Latino voters, Christie did sign an in-state tuition bill for undocumented students, but struck a provision allowing them to access state financial aid programs.