Immigrant youth and their families keep hopes up for access to education, but express disappointment at lack of movement on Driver’s Licenses bills
Tallahassee, FL – With 7 votes in favor and only 2 against, Senate Bill 1400 for Tuition Equity passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier today, and moves now to its third committee. The bill, introduced by Senator Latvala, would standardize a process by which all Florida students, who graduated from our high schools, would be allowed to pursue higher education in their home state and pay in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status.
The following is a statement by Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition:
“As the bill moves on in the Senate, we will continue reaching out to state legislators asking them to do what is right for Florida’s youth and to say yes to our state’s future and economic competitiveness. Why wouldn’t we say yes to young Floridians who want to study and are willing to pay a fair price for their education? This is a no-brainer.
We have waited for more than 10 years for tuition equity. Now that the House has taken the first step, we urge our State Senators to finally make history and add Florida to the list of nearly 20 states who recognize that an educated community and workforce is the best investment.
Although we are optimistic because many of Florida’s leaders are finally recognizing the positive contributions of immigrant youth, we are disappointed at the lack of leadership in supporting bills that would allow the same youth and their parents to apply for driver’s licenses in order to go to school, work, the doctor or church. Unfortunately, a bill introduced by Senator René García has never been heard during this year’s legislative session. In the same way that immigration status should not define residency for tuition purposes, neither should status be linked to ability to drive.
While some are waiting for us to applaud Gov. Rick Scott for supporting access to education for immigrant youth, we do not forget how just last year he vetoed driver’s licenses for those same young Floridians. If Gov. Scott really wants to keep Florida working and approach our growing and diverse immigrant communities, he should support legislations that allow Florida’s employees to apply for a Driver’s License. Our students count on their parents’ ability to keep working to pay for their college tuition, and our agriculture and tourism industries count on workers being able to drive to their workplace without risking their lives on the road. Lack of drivers’ licenses is a major trigger to deportations and family separation.
We expect our Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera to be the voice of his Latino community at the Governor’s office and use his position to move forward not only with the youth, but with their families too. We have requested a meeting to discuss the prosperity and productivity of Florida’s family with him.“
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