Democrat Anna V. Eskamani called the bill “an offensive piece of legislation” that is fundamentally un-American.
The 2014 law that made undocumented students who attended Florida high schools eligible for in-state tuition at public universities and colleges is being challenged by a Florida lawmaker.
Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, says the state can no longer afford the law, which allowed students who have attended Florida schools for at least three years to pay discounted tuition.
The primary beneficiaries of the tuition waivers are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students who came to the United States as young children. And for thousands of these students, also called “Dreamers,” across the state who get the help, it marks the difference between being able to attend a public university and not being able to afford a higher education.
According to a policy brief by the Florida College Access Network, approximately 2,475 students took advantage of the waiver in the 2014-2015 academic year.
A Flawed Rationale
But according to Fine, the increasing costs of the pandemic means the state can no longer afford to provide tuition waivers, which come at a cost of approximately $45 million per year.
His rationale: the state can’t afford $45 million for “parents’ bad decisions.”
“It simply strikes me as unfair to Floridians to cut other programs by $45 million when we’re providing this $45 million subsidy to illegal immigrants,” said Fine, who called the program a “sweetheart deal” for students who are in this country illegally. However, he added that his proposal will not change admissions policies at public institutions.
DACA Kids “Are Floridians”
After the bill HB 6037 was introduced in the Florida legislature, Anna V. Eskamani (D-Orlando), the first Iranian American in the Florida legislature, called Fine’s proposal “an offensive piece of legislation” that is essentially un-American.
“The reality is that our DREAMers are Floridians,” she said to reporters. “This is the only state they know as home; they came to this country without any control of that decision, often with their parents escaping brutal violence to achieve the American dream.”
Eskamani also pointed out that DACA kids have been “incredible contributors to our society; they have served in our military and they are small business owners, they’re entrepreneurs,” adding that this is not where the state should be making cuts.
“I totally agree that we have a budget deficit to correct, but carrying this pandemic on the backs of our students is inappropriate, and targeting immigrant kids is even worse,” she said.