There is a bipartisan push in the Florida Capitol to pass legislation which would grant in-state tuition (or an equivalent tuition discount) to illegal immigrants. As a fiscal conservative, I strongly disagree with the ideology, intent, and rationale of HB 851 and SB 1400.
Many children of military personnel stationed in Florida are not eligible for in-state tuition benefits. Providing this type of subsidization to illegal immigrants, yet denying it to families of the men and women who risked their lives to defend our nation, is shameful and wrong.
Those in support of this legislation argue that granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants would increase their access to higher education. This is a fallacy. Currently, on average, out-of-state tuition at Florida's 28 state colleges is less than in-state tuition at the 12 state universities after factoring in housing and fees.
Further, Florida cannot afford this expense. In 2001, Texas passed similar legislation granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. According to The Lone Star Foundation, in two years the number of illegal immigrants receiving in-state tuition had more than doubled while the cost to the state had exceeded $50 million. It would be irresponsible to place this kind of burden on the backs of Floridas taxpayers.
Finally, it would be unfair for the state to subsidize tens of thousands of dollars in tuition for each illegal immigrant while denying these seats to American citizens. Worse, once these illegal immigrants graduate, they would not have the opportunity for legal employment, according to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 signed by President Ronald Reagan. Under this law, employers are forbidden from hiring illegal immigrants.
During these financially difficult times, our focus as legislators should be on the hard-working, taxpaying, and legal citizens of Florida. I believe HB 851 and SB 1400 may be the first step toward granting amnesty to illegal immigrants in Florida and, as such, I strongly oppose it.
Rep. John Tobia, elected in 2008, represents southern Brevard County and serves on the Energy and Utilities Subcommittee, Finance and Tax Subcommittee, and Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. He can be reached by phone at 321-984-4848 or email at John.Tobia@myfloridahouse.gov.