Lawmakers Reach Out to Undocumented Immigrants

By: Dara Kam News Service of Florida | Posted: May 4, 2014 3:55 AM
Old Capitol

Immediately after the Senate passed HB 755 late Friday afternoon, Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher left the chamber, dashed up the stairs and handed a sheet of paper to a small cluster of people outside the public gallery.

It was a vote sheet signed by Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican, and Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, two lawmakers who were instrumental in the passage of the bill that will allow Jose Godinez-Samperio, an undocumented immigrant, to become a Florida lawyer.

The bill was one of two that lawmakers approved on the final day of the session that opened doors for "Dreamers," undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. The other measure, a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, would allow undocumented students to pay cheaper, in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities if they attend three years of secondary schooling in Florida.

On the fifth floor, Thrasher hugged Sandy D'Alemberte, a former president of the American Bar Association and former dean of the Florida State University law school who represented Godinez-Samperio before the Florida Supreme Court and pushed the Legislature to pass the bill.

"I'm sorry it took so long," Thrasher said to D'Alemberte, who was flanked by his wife, Patsy Palmer, and attorney Steve Uhlfelder -- the team members who, along with Godinez-Samperio, walked the halls and whipped the votes for Friday's victory.

The measure is now on its way to Gov. Rick Scott, who said Thursday night he will sign it. Scott made his remarks during a hastily called press conference at which he praised the Senate for approving the in-state tuition measure (HB 851). The House gave final approval to the tuition bill Friday morning.

Godinez-Samperio's parents brought him to the country from Mexico when he was 9 years old. He later became an Eagle Scout, valedictorian of his high school class, graduated from FSU law school with honors and passed the Bar exam. But, because he is not a U.S. citizen, the Florida Supreme Court decided he cannot be admitted to The Florida Bar. In an emotionally charged opinion penned by Cuban-born Justice Jorge Labarga, the court asked the Legislature to allow the court to change its rules to make it possible for Godinez-Samperio and other "Dreamers" to become eligible to practice law in Florida.

Under the bill on its way to Scott, people who were brought to the country as children, have been residents of the United States for more than a decade, have received documented employment authorization from federal immigration officials, have been issued Social Security cards and, if they are men, have registered with the Selective Service System, would be eligible to apply for The Bar. After Scott signs the measure and it becomes law, the Supreme Court could allow Godinez-Samperio, who wants to practice immigration law, to become an attorney.

Posing for a photograph while clutching the 26-7 vote sheet in his hand Friday evening, Godinez-Samperio said he "thought this was going to be a disaster" when he and his team first started lobbying the Legislature to change the law.

"I'm ecstatic," he said. "It's a dream come true. It's a great day for Florida."

The House passed the measure granting in-state tuition rates to undocumented students early in the session. But a Senate version -- sponsored by Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican locked in a battle with Senate budget chief Joe Negron over a future Senate presidency -- was stalled until this week after Negron, R-Stuart, refused to schedule it for a committee hearing.

On Thursday, the Senate made a slight change to the proposal, which also includes a provision dealing with universities' ability to hike tuition up to 15 percent per year without the Legislature's approval. Scott had wanted to eliminate the "differential" tuition hikes altogether. Under the compromise on its way to the governor, only the University of Florida and Florida State University would be able to seek such increases, which would be capped at 6 percent.

The House signed off on the measure Friday morning with an 84-32 vote, with Democrats lending enough support to the bill to ensure its passage.

"I hope that this signals an end to the anti-immigrant extremism that has reigned in both of these houses for over a decade," said Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami.

Republicans had been split on the issue despite encouragement from Scott, former Govs. Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez and national GOP leaders eager for their party to embrace Hispanics, a critical voting bloc.

Critics have accused Scott, who pledged to bring an Arizona-style law to Florida in his first campaign for governor, of an election-year turnaround on the issue of immigration. Scott, as he has repeatedly in the past, used the tuition issue to blast Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, a former governor.

"The Florida Legislature embraced fairness for all students today by taking action to lower the costs of higher education for every family in Florida. Students who have spent their childhood here in Florida deserve to qualify for the same in-state tuition," Scott said in a statement. "We are trying to right the wrongs of the previous administration that raised the price of a college education and opposed providing in-state tuition for children of immigrants. The Legislature did the right thing, and I look forward to signing this historic legislation."

Tags: News, Politics

Comments (6)

11:37AM MAY 13TH 2014
The RINO traitors who voted to aid and abet illegals need to be voted out office. Please call them and tell them what you think of their voting for this legislation. They must hear from us!

www(.)numbersusa(.)com A non partisan, non profit orgn. working to curb illegal immigration. Check out the "report cards" for politicians. Marco Rubio has a D-. Bill Nelson has an F. Traitors both!
those aggressive-compassionate conservatives
5:11PM MAY 6TH 2014
"The Hispanic Leadership Network, a group claiming Jeb Bush as a member. Bush is an amnesty kingpin"

Jeb Bush is for anything that will bring him and his cronies "more money!" And ethics be darned - he don't care and if you don't like it he will make sure you are forced to pick up your marbles and go home!

Jeb Bush has been right in the sack with the Cuban Exiles since the day his old man worked on the Bay of Pigs and Zapato Oil company. The same goes afor the Mexican Drug Cartels, all well connected to the Bush criminal empire! The Jeb Bush- Miguel Recarey (IMC) International Medical Centers was financed by Santo Trafficante, Jr. when the honest people in the HHS took Recarey down Jeb and George Bush moved in their Dallas lawyer Richard (Rick) Lynn Scott Johnson and Swanson and along with Richard Rainwater the picked up the organized Medicaer Fraud operations that had been set up by Jeb with his HHS Washington DC connections - As their friend David Axelrod would say "never let a crisis go to waste!
11:45AM MAY 13TH 2014
Ad a Republican I will NEVER vote for another "moderate"
Bush! Check out the fake conservative group "Americans for a Conservative Direction." Look at the founders and Board of Directors: Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour, MARK ZUCKERBURG, Dubya's former deputy chief of staff, the PUBLIC
need a public policy director?!?), and two other inside the beltway guys. NOT CONSERVATIVE! Their mission is to ram amnesty for illegals through! Please pass on this info. They raise a lot of money because people don't research before they donate! This group ran the non stop radio ads with Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan pushing for the Gang of Eight bill. SB 744, several months ago. These traitors need to be voted out of office!!!
H.E. "Pete" Ashley
8:03PM MAY 5TH 2014
"Undocumented" does that mean they are here illegally? What is the meaning of our citizenship when the rewards awarded to illegal aliens by the U.S. Congress and “The One” trumps the penalty for their illegal presence and gives them finical advantages over citizens and those who came here the right way? ?
10:07AM MAY 5TH 2014
"Undocumented immigrant" - please stop corrupting language. Immigrants are foreigners who follow our immigration laws, all other foreigners are here either legally or illegally. Those who are here legally will have documents attesting to that fact, which leaves ILLEGAL ALIENS.

"Undocumented immigrant" is a talking point developed by the Hispanic Leadership Network, a group claiming Jeb Bush as a member. Bush is an amnesty kingpin.

hispanicleadershipnetwork dot org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/HLN-Dos-and-Donts-of-Immigration-Reform-Mes-saging.pdf
Ron Scott
3:55PM MAY 4TH 2014
Rick scott will lose because of Hispanics will vote for Charlie crist and former scott supporters like myself and every person I know will vote third party or stay home this time . Rick scot is a tratier ! Vote out Scott he cares more about illigal aliens then the people that put him over the line for govener

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