In-State Tuition for DREAMers Breezes Through House Committee

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: March 5, 2014 1:40 PM
Will Weatherford, Jeanette Nuñez

Will Weatherford, Jeanette Nuñez

The 2014 legislative session may have just begun Tuesday, but a bill to offer in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants is quickly making its way through Tallahassee.

The bill, HB 851, sponsored by Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami, passed through the Education Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday with a unanimous vote.

HB 851 provides that students who attend a Florida high school for three consecutive years and enroll in an institution of higher education within 24 months after graduation will not be required to pay out-of-state fees, as long as they submit their high school transcript as documentary evidence of attendance and graduation. 

Two brothers brought to the country as children testified at the meeting Wednesday, speaking at length about the issues they faced when trying to afford college tuition.

Nicholas Wolf, who currently attends Florida International University, told his story to the committee -- it’s a story of how he and his twin brother came to the United States from Columbia at the age of 5 with their mother, staying on a tourist visa.

Wolf excelled in high school and was offered a Bright Futures scholarship, but ultimately was unable to claim the scholarship because of his immigration status.

This story, Wolf said, is just one example of students who want to better themselves through higher education.

“There are thousands of other students just like us,” he said. “We just want the same opportunities as anyone else.”

The bill received only two committee referrals and has cleared both. House Speaker Will Weatherford will decide whether to send it to any more committees.

HB 851 has been making noise in the Florida House of Representatives. Weatherford honed in on the issue during his opening address on the House floor on Tuesday.

"Let's exercise our state's rights and open the door of opportunity for all of Florida's children,” he said, adding there was a moral issue at the heart of the bill. "We should never punish a child for the mistake of their parents.”

But things don’t seem quite as bright for the bill in the Senate, where President Don Gaetz said an informal vote count shows the bill may only have 18 ‘yes’ votes out of the 40 members of the Senate.

Gaetz has said repeatedly that he’s not totally on board with the bill, telling Sunshine State News the issue is a point of disagreement between himself and Weatherford.

Gaetz explained the children of undocumented aliens should not be moved ahead of military families and other immigrants who play by the rules when it comes to in-state tuition, but said he and the speaker “respect each other’s positions.”

Weatherford will decide whether the bill will be sent to any more committees.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

Comments (16)

Tired of Political Games
9:18AM JUN 10TH 2014
People are so warped in their thinking, why should Illegal Aliens get any benefits that Legal Citizens should be receiving? Illegal or as the political jargon tries to disassociate them with that status by saying Undocumented are criminals they broke the law by entering our country and are putting a strain on the system so much now that it is detrimental. Not to mention that they are an insult to every individual who did the right thing by going through the legal process of becoming a legal citizen. I'm all for more people being allowed the opportunity to live the American Dream for what it is worth today but not Illegal Undocumented Aliens or their offspring who were born here due to their direct illegal entry into our country. They do not pay anything but sales tax because Illegal Undocumented Aliens are usually paid under the table so what is their true contribution? Nothing they take more than they could ever possibly contribute in any meaningful way!
Bill Cornigan
7:21PM MAR 31ST 2014
Lots of haters and racists commenting here, huh?
6:19PM MAR 9TH 2014
These Negative comments !!! You need Jesús!! Jesús loves You!
3:44PM MAR 6TH 2014
Sounds like Florida wants to be like California.
Gene Ralno
12:07PM MAR 6TH 2014
Why not? Isn't this what America's about these days? Seems those who do not earn now are entitled to a share of what others have earned. Welcome to socialism. I wonder if these legislators would open the borders to every nation or just to Mexico & Cuba. I also wonder if they'd offer taxpayer funded largesse to every one.
11:04AM MAR 6TH 2014
i am sorry, but no matter how 'bright' these 'dreamers' are - due to their parents being illegal so are they!! the money is NOT there for them. it is there for LEGAL STUDENTS ONLY !!! illegals are draining our system for those who are entitled to it, the same as those on welfare are draining the system so that the money isn't there for really need things - like defending their sorry behinds!!!
10:25AM MAR 6TH 2014
Yeah? Where is the help for MY daughter? She and I BOTH have two jobs, just to get her through a lousy State College and all our legislators care about is making life easier for law breaking parents who steal our jobs!!
12:15AM MAR 6TH 2014
Let me see if I have this straight.

They're here illegally... They have already been given a FREE education, courtesy of all the legal, tax-paying citizenry and, now, they think they should get a break on their college edu on our dime, too...

Is that about right?
Joe Hakos
7:43PM MAR 5TH 2014
By all means do this... The individual who testified was only in country for 13 years how could he and his family possibly be expected to become citizens in that much time. Ahhh. No try again...! Maybe in Columbia.
6:58PM MAR 5TH 2014
Why are they trying to reward ILLEGAL behavior. If you are here illegally, you should not get citizen benefits!!!!!
10:49PM MAR 5TH 2014
There are many dreamers who came to the US at a young age (5-1 yrs old). They did not even know they were coming illegally. Would you like it if your parents brought you to a foreign country illegally at age 4 and they denied you everything.
Gene Ralno
12:11PM MAR 6TH 2014
Keep the kid in the foster program and deport the parents.
10:44AM MAR 6TH 2014
Get head out of the sand. No illegal person young or old deserves anything. They go to the back of the line and this includes education. It's the way life is. Illegal immigrants are darn lucky they are not round up and taken back to the border and booted out. The government needs to get these illegals registered and scheduled for citizenship. No more free rides. So quit playing this game of sympathy for these people that are violating our laws.
10:29AM MAR 6TH 2014
So why do their parents illegal action have to cost us and our children? I have placed myself in debt just to put my daughter through a State College, and yet these kids get benefits at the expense of American citizens and children like my daughter? Life is NOT FAIR, my daughter learned that long ago, it is time the children of illegals learned it as well!
12:18AM MAR 6TH 2014
I wouldn't "like" it at all... TOO BAD! It's not about what I would "like" of about a bleeding heart. It's about removing the condequenses for un-lawful behavior on the backs of those who are citizens or here legally.
Martin Resident
6:43PM MAR 5TH 2014
"Just say no" to this bill!

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