Federal lawmakers have discussed the DREAM Act for years, but no measure has made it through Congress. The idea would provide a pathway for certain undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status in the United States. The proposal would allow undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children with their parents with the opportunity to gain permanent residency through attending college or joining the military.
But what happens in Florida when a child is born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants and that child later decides to go to college. Many Florida residents have been surprised to learn that a Florida student may not qualify for in-state tuition rates under certain circumstances, even if the student is a life-long Florida resident.
The Miami Herald reports that a number of life-long South Florida residents have filed a lawsuit challenging the Florida in-state residency guidelines for college tuition. The students are not considered legal Florida residents, although they were born in the state. The Herald tells of one woman, a U.S. citizen with a Florida birth certificate-born and raised in Miami-who has a Florida driver's license and is registered to vote in the state.
Despite her citizenship and lifelong residency in Florida, the Florida higher education system does not recognize her as a legal Florida resident. She is a dependant student whose parents are undocumented immigrants.
It is not clear where the lawsuit challenging the tuition rule will go. One state lawmaker, Rep. Reggie Fullwood of Jacksonville, Florida, filed a measure Friday that would grant in-state tuition to citizen children of undocumented immigrants under certain circumstances. The measure would allow in-state tuition provided the student attended a Florida high school for four consecutive years and enrolls in a Florida college within a year of graduation.
The Florida measure reportedly does not address immigration reform and differs significantly from the DREAM Act. The measure appears only to apply to U.S. citizens, allowing a pathway for Florida residents who are citizens to seek in-state tuition rates for college.
Source: Miami Herald, "U.S.-citizen children of immigrants protest higher tuition rates," Michael Vasquez, Oct. 23, 2011