A group of state elected officials affiliated with the Progressive States Network are for what has been dubbed the “State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy,” and have been at the forefront of advancing pragmatic state approaches to immigration which look to expand opportunities for all of its residents while strengthening communities and state economies. With members in 34 states and counting, the list includes state business leaders, law enforcement, and conservative lawmakers who realize that anti-immigrant efforts are expensive, misguided, and destructive to state economies. They have introduced many tuition equity bills that are aimed at integrating undocumented young people into communities and local institutions. If this seems familiar is because it tries to pick up where part of the Dream Act left off in that it would help undocumented youth who are residents of those member states enroll in college by allowing them to pay at an in-state tuition rate. These tuition equity bills are gaining momentum in Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and Oregon.
This measure is probably at least partly due to the increasing power of the state Latino electorate that voiced their opposition to anti-immigrant proposals. Colorado appears to be close to passing this measure, and Oregon’s state legislature is making headway on the issue. This type of legislation makes sense for so many reasons, especially as states are confronting historic budget deficits. It’s such a great idea that it would be irresponsible for Florida government leaders not to consider the move. In spite of the new bill introduced by our state’s Congress aimed at immigration enforcement and penalization, it would be wise for our leaders to shift their attitude, at least in this matter, since it would help meet the financial realities of our slashed budget for education by inserting more cash in the system through effectively enabling people who would otherwise be priced out of a college education to opt for one. Ten states have already passed tuition equity laws, including Utah where conservative state legislators last year reconsidered their efforts to repeal their tuition equity law when they learned that doing so would deprive the state’s university system of at least $1.5 million in much-need tuition fees. The addition of Florida to this list of progressive states would bring otherwise inconceivable benefits to the state- they should seriously consider this option.