Florida State Colleges Charging Higher Tuition Fees for Children of Illegal Immigrants

In late 2011, a class-action lawsuit was filed in Miami by Florida residents who were being charged out-of-state tuition rates to attend state colleges and universities. The students are American citizens who were born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants. Their claim is that Florida’s regulations violate their constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment.

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Amendment XIV.

The out-of-state tuition is said to be three to four times the cost of in state tuition making it well beyond the reach of many Florida residents whose parents are illegal immigrants.  Following the class-action suit, a bill was proposed that would have given Florida residents regardless of their parents’ immigration status, in-state tution for higher education contingent on them having lived in Florida for at least two years.

The story doesn’t end well for the affected students. In January 2012, the bill died in the Senate’s higher education committee. One concern raised by many Senators was that the bill would open up a loophole for students with parents in other States who could otherwise afford the out-of-state tuition costs. Following the meeting, committee chair, Sen. Steve Oelrich R-Gainesville, remarked:

“The idea was that we’re quote-unquote punishing the students. They didn’t ask to be born here. But on the same token, the other part that bothers me is, why would we give favor to children of illegal aliens over children of legal out-of-state, longtime American citizens? That just wasn’t right.”