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Immigrants in Florida hope that State politicians “keep working” for all Floridians

As the Legislative Session begins, immigrant communities ask Florida’s leaders to support education for all Florida graduates and licenses for all drivers

Miami, FL – “Let’s keep working!” was the phrase Governor Scott used several times during his State of the State address today. “We agree, but we hope our state politicians want to keep working for all Floridians, including immigrants,” replied María Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Three years after anti-immigrant laws were pushed back in Florida’s Legislature, statewide immigrant communities turn their eyes again to Tallahassee, this time to see bills that would supporting immigrant families and students, encourage higher education and safer roads for all Floridians.

In Florida we know by experience that when immigrants are given an opportunity, we all benefit and our culture and economy thrive,” says Rodriguez. “But something is wrong in our state when some of our high school graduates can’t go to college because they have to pay out-of-state tuition, or when thousands of parents can’t drive their kids to school because they can’t apply for a driver’s license. If our legislators want to keep Florida working and maintain a competitive edge, they should join the dozens of other states that have opened up opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurship by providing instate tuition and drivers licenses. These are basic steps that will promote job growth, innovation and maximize our contributions to Florida’s most important industries.”

Member organizations of the Florida Immigrant Coalition and other community organizations statewide will be following the legislative process very closely and expect Governor Scott, the recently appointed Lt. Governor Lopez-Cantera and leadership in both Chambers to support the following bills:

Tuition Equity for ALL Florida Graduates: HB 851 (Rep. Nuñez) and SB 1400 (Sen. Latvala); HB 205 (Rep. Rodriguez), and SB 428 (Sen. Bullard). 

Currently, thousands of youth who grew up in Florida and graduated from our high schools, have to pay 3 or 4 times more for out-of-state tuition if they want pursue higher education just because they or their parents are immigrants. A number of bills have been already introduced at the State Legislature in order to allow Florida’s youth pay a fair and reasonable amount for their education and therefore become Florida’s future professionals, regardless of their immigration status.

Driver’s Licenses for ALL Florida Drivers: SB 1402 (Sen. Garcia) and HB 1183 (Rep. Gibbons)

These bills would require all drivers in Florida to apply for a Driver’s License, regardless of their immigration status. This could not only help thousands of workers get to their workplace and parents take their children to school, but would also increase safety in our roads and highways by having all Driver’s identified and with mandatory insurance

Access to health care for children who are Legal Permanent Residents: HB 7 (Rep. Diaz) and SB 282 (Sen. García)

This legislation would extend coverage of KidCare to lawfully residing immigrant children. Currently, immigrant children who have Legal Permanent Residency, have to wait 5 years to have access to health care through the KidCare program. By passing this legislation, Florida can request federal funds available for our state since 2009 in order to cover these children.

Immigrant communities will also be looking closely at some bills that could encourage wage theft and deter the rights of hardworking Floridians to receive their earned paycheck. Bills such as SB 926 (Sen. Simpson) and HB 0957 (Rep. Combee) attempt to preempt important programs in Miami-Dade, Broward and Alachua counties where low-income workers can claim their stolen paychecks when they’ve been victim of an unscrupulous employer.

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