Florida proposals target undocumented students, workers

Some advocates say a new proposal will cut off thousands of students’ ability to continue in higher education.

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a plan to eliminate out-of-state tuition fee waivers for undocumented students.


The governor’s proposal would roll back a policy implemented nearly a decade ago that made higher education a reality for thousands of undocumented students.

The bill allowed undocumented students attending Florida public high schools to continue higher education while paying in-state tuition fees.

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Data from the Higher Ed Immigration portal shows there are 40,000 undocumented students in higher education across Florida. The governor’s proposal would mean some of those students would suddenly see their tuition more than double.

DeSantis said it is necessary to combat inflation, which he said is leading colleges to up costs.

“If you want to hold the line on tuition, you’ve got to say you need to be a U.S. citizen who lives in Florida. Why would we subsidize non-U.S. citizens when we want to make sure we got to keep it affordable for our own people?” DeSantis said.

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Advocates call the move inhumane and say it would only worsen shortages in fields like nursing and teaching.

“This is not only a travesty and a human rights issue but an issue of labor force,” said Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet, executive director of Hope Community Center.

This proposal from the governor comes the day after Florida Sen. Blaise Ingoglia filed a bill aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

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The bill would ban local governments from issuing community IDs to undocumented people, increase penalties for any business that hires someone is undocumented, and require some hospitals to collect immigrant status data.

“This means undocumented people will die in their houses. They will not go to the hospital. They will be too afraid for deportation,” Sousa-Lazaballet said.

Ingoglia and DeSantis said many of these proposals are intended to address a border crisis that they say is spilling into Florida.

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“If you remove enticement of employment, then they are not going to want to come illegally to the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

But Sousa-Lazaballet said the proposals could contribute to racial profiling and would have a chilling impact on immigrant health care, as well as would hurt local businesses.

“Over 40% of farm workers are undocumented,” Sousa-Lazaballet said. “In a community like Central Florida that is so dependent on agro-business and hospitality and restaurants, a lot of the labor force will not be able to work.”

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