Undocumented students to get in-state tuition?

Published On: Apr 01 2014 04:34:42 PM EDT
Updated On: Apr 01 2014 04:38:46 PM EDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

A Senate bill allowing for in-state tuition for undocumented students cleared a huge hurdle Tuesday. After barely passing its last committee, the proposal picked up some unexpected votes.

The House version of the bill differs from the Senate’s by still allowing tuition to be raised. The House bill would bring tuition hikes down from 15 percent to 6 percent a year. 

Mizael Huerta, an undocumented student, has no problem calling America home.

“This is the only home that we know, we grew up here, we weren’t born here but we grew up here,” Huerta said.

Huerta was born outside the United States but spent a majority of his life in Florida. He was one of dozens speaking out about a bill that would grant in-state tuition to undocumented students. The opposing testimony got personal.

“They should return home and finish their education and help build a vibrant economy so their two main exports in the future are not just drugs and people,” said George Fuller, who is opposed to tuition equity.

The comment was too much for Sen. Jeremy Ring.

“Mr. Chair, that’s not how -- we’re a Senate committee hearing, take control,” said Ring.

Ultimately, in-state tuition arguments are not what got the bill to pass.

Lawmakers outside were celebrating Florida State Day at the Capitol. This legislation would actually cap university tuition. 

The bill caps the university's ability to raise tuition above what lawmakers set. That was enough to sell some swing votes.

“The bill has a number of good things in it," said Sen. John Thrasher. "The other arguments about in-state have been made. It’s time to move on.” 

Bill sponsor Jack Latvala hopes the legislation opens the door for thousands of students in Florida.

“And maybe give them something better to do than being a dishwasher, or a maid, or something like that in a hotel. They can do anything,” Latvala said. 

The bill passed with just two "no" votes.

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