A new bill introduced in the Florida legislature on Thursday would repeal a 2014 law that grants subsidized in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants at the state’s public colleges and universities.
Florida currently offers out-of-state tuition waivers for college students who came to the United States illegally. To be eligible for the waiver, such students must have attended a secondary school within the state for three consecutive years, applied to college within two years after high school graduation, and submitted a transcript from a Florida high school as proof of attendance and graduation. They also cannot receive an out-of-state tuition waiver and state aid at the same time.
The bill, if passed as is, will make illegal immigrants ineligible for Florida’s in-state tuition benefits.
“With a multi-billion dollar projected budget deficit, Florida can no longer afford to spend $45 million a year on college and university subsidies for families who came to this country illegally,” said Republican state Rep. Randy Fine, who introduced the bill.
Fine argued that his bill is not meant to penalize students for “bad decisions” made by their parents, but the financial situation is forcing the state to prioritize its legal residents.
“With President [Joe] Biden’s proposed new immigration policy rewarding illegal immigration, this financial burden will only get larger,” he said. “We need to put Floridians first, and I am proud to do my part to do so.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 16 states have enacted laws to provide in-state tuition benefits for certain illegal immigrant students, typically saving them one-half to two-thirds off of the cost of out-of-state tuition.
The proposed Florida bill comes as Biden, on his first day in White House, signed a memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to take actions aimed at “preserving and fortifying” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by the Obama administration in 2012. The DACA program provides protection from deportation and renewable work permits to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, a group that includes many current college students.
The Supreme Court in June blocked President Donald Trump’s attempt to end the DACA program. In a divided 5-4 decision, the Court said the Trump administration could legally end the program but failed to provide proper justification for doing so. A New York federal judge eventually ordered the Homeland Security Department to once again accept new DACA applications, fully restoring the program.
The DACA program is currently being challenged by a pending lawsuit filed in a Texas federal court. A coalition of nine states, led by Texas, argued that the program should be terminated because President Barack Obama did not have the authority to bypass Congress to create it.