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Local / State

Bill Would Deny Tuition For Undocumented Immigrant Students

Tuition.jpg

A newly elected state senator has filed legislation that would undo a 2014 law allowing in-state tuition for some undocumented immigrant students, potentially reopening an emotionally charged debate in the wake of Donald Trump's presidential win.
Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, filed the bill (SB 82) less than three years after the Legislature approved the original proposal authorizing the lower, in-state tuition rates for immigrants who have attended secondary school in Florida for three years before graduating from high school.

Steube, who was named this week as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was following through on a campaign promise after hearing about the 2014 measure from concerned constituents.

"It was quite frankly a big issue with a lot of people during my election, especially during the primary," Steube, who opposed the 2014 measure while serving in the House, said Wednesday.

But Steube's legislation drew a sharp rejoinder from Rep. Jeanette Nunez, the No. 2 Republican in the House and the sponsor of the bill that extended in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

"Clearly, it seems to me that Senator Steube is still in campaign mode and has not transitioned to governing mode," said Nunez, R-Miami.

Repealing the in-state tuition exception could also alter the higher-education plans of many students who have spent much of their lives in Florida. Supporters argue that undocumented families often still contribute to the economy and tax base, which helps fund higher education.

If it advances during the 2017 session, the legislation could reopen an issue that badly divided Republicans in 2014. The in-state tuition bill was pushed by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican who is now considered a potential candidate for statewide office. While a staunch conservative on many issues, Weatherford tacked to the center in the tuition debate, arguing that the students involved were often brought to America at young ages and that the state had already invested in their education.