In a welcome reversal from just a week ago, the Florida state senate today approved tuition equality for DREAMers by a vote of 26 to 13 — prompting ecstatic cheers from DREAMers and advocates with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and others, who had been waiting all day for the vote.
The bill was facing a major obstacle in Senate President Don Gaetz, a Republican who was blocking the bill coming to the floor. But a majority of senators wanted to debate the legislation, and quietly cleared the way for the final vote. The Senate bill will go to the state House tomorrow, which last month passed a similar bill by a margin of 81-33. Governor Rick Scott, who has espoused anti-immigrant positions in the past, has already said he will sign tuition equality into law; Florida would be the 21st state to do so.
During the floor debate today, a number of state legislators pointed out the unfairness of charging in-state DREAMers a tuition rate that is four times higher, called on their colleagues to bolster opportunities for young immigrants, and detailed the numerous ways that DREAMers and immigrants contribute to the economy.
As State Sen. Jack Latvala (R), just one of 21 bipartisan sponsors, said before the bill went up for debate:
I would estimate that I have sponsored 400 to 500 bills, but this is the bill that will stick with me. We are making college education more affordable for our students in Florida. We are helping to prepare our young people from all walks of life, for improving the job force, for improving the economy.
THE BILL PASSES WOTH 26 ores! Heads to the House for a FINAL vote. pic.twitter.com/ud0pbt6QyS
— Juan (@JuanSaaa) May 1, 2014