[JURIST] Florida Governor Rick Scott [official website] signed a bill [press release] on Monday allowing undocumented students living in Florida to receive in-state college tuition rates. HB 851 [text, PDF] will go into effect on July 1. Florida’s House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 84-32 [legislative materials] in May. Upon signing, Scott issued a statement:
Making sure all Floridians have access to an affordable higher education is one of my top priorities. Signing this historic legislation today will keep tuition low, and allow all students who grew up in Florida to have the same access to affordable higher education. With this legislation, higher education became more affordable and more accessible to all Floridians.
Even though the bill was passed with substantial support, it retains opposition. Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN) [advocacy website], an anti-illegal immigration advocacy group, alleges that “HB851/SB1400 will cause an unknown number of legal students to be displaced from college by illegal alien students.”
Florida has now joined 16 other states [NILC backgrounder] that allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition. This is part of a trend [NCSL backgrounder] that has been ongoing since 2001 when Texas and California became the first states to do so. Traditionally, Scott has not supported bills that would give more freedom to undocumented immigrants. Last June Scott vetoed [FCIR report] a bill that would give children of undocumented immigrants the right to have a driver’s license. In March of this year Florida’s Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that immigrants in the country illegally may not practice law in the state of Florida.