Florida Is the Latest State to Grant In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrants

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Florida looks set to become the latest state to allow "Dreamers" — young undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents — access to in-state college tuition, a move that will help the state’s conservative legislature attract the ever-important Hispanic vote. The decision comes two days after Mark Herring, Virginia’s attorney general, said in-state tuition should be extended to Dreamers.

As Lizette Alvarez reports in The New York Times, Florida will become the 20th state to "offer some kind of in-state tuition" to children brought to the United States illegally as children, and therefore don't have lawful status in the country. The bill is expected to pass the state Senate on Thursday, a remarkable feat considering Gov. Rick Scott’s “Arizona-style crackdown” on illegal immigration in 2010, and his veto of a driver’s license bill for Dreamers last year. It has taken a decade for the bill to pass in Florida, largely because of arguments like the one made by state Sen. Jeff Brandes: “A Purple Heart-receiving combat veteran could be bumped for an undocumented student.”

But like many conservative candidates (we’re looking at you, Tom “Miami-is-a-third-world-country” Tancredo) who can no longer ignore the crucial Hispanic vote, Scott has started producing Spanish-language ads in an attempt to court the group of people he worked so hard to drive away. In Florida, Hispanics make up 14 percent of the electorate, and former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is being touted as both the best and worst possible option for a Republican presidential candidate in 2016, supported the bill’s passage.

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The National Conference of State Legislatures says that 15 states currently allow Dreamers to be eligible for in-state tuition. In February, the Associated Press reported that in addition to Florida and Virginia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Mississippi, and New Hampshire have bills under consideration that would extend the in-state benefit.

States that offer some form of instate tuition benefit through state legislatures

  • California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington.

States that offer in-state tuition through Board of Regents decisions

  • Oklahoma. In 2008, a House bill ended instate tuition eligibility for undocumented immigrants, but Oklahoma State Regents are allowed to enroll a student without lawful presence in the country as long as they meet special requirements.

  • Rhode Island.

States soon to offer in-state tuition

  • Virginia, Florida.

States that have barred in-state tuition 

  • Alabama and South Carolina both prohibit undocumented immigrants from enrolling in state colleges.

  • Arizona, Georgia, Indiana.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.