Undocumented Immigrants Can Attend College & Practice Law in Florida

On May 2, 2014, Florida legislature voted and passed House Bill 851 (HB 851) with 26 votes in favor in the Senate and 84 votes in favor in the Florida House. This bill extends access for undocumented immigrants to attend college if they reside in the state of Florida and have graduated from a local Florida high school. It will also allow those immigrants to pay in-state tuition, which is substantially lower than the current out-of-state or international tuition and fees.

In addition, House Bill 755 (HB 755), a bill that will allow non-citizen, unauthorized immigrants permission to receive a license to practice law in the state of Florida has also been passed. HB 755 was introduced as a result of the Jose Godinez-Samperio case. His two-year fight concluded this past March in the Supreme Court. They could not rule in his favor due to federal law that states that any taxpayer-funded public benefit, in this case, practicing law, cannot be granted to undocumented immigrants. As a result of this ruling, Jose’s supporters and the Americans for Immigrant Justice urged Florida legislation to create a bill that would exempt Florida from this federal law. This in turn led to HB 755.

Both HB 851 and HB 755 have been sent to Governor Rick Scott for his signature and final approval. In the meantime, undocumented immigrants in the state of Florida are now permitted to study in Florida colleges at in-state tuition rates, and should they choose to receive a Florida law degree, they may also participate in the Florida bar and practice in the state of Florida.

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