All five Democrats running for governor in Florida support in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants, often called DREAMers.
But it doesn't appear that all of them know DREAMers are already eligible.
Responding to a Tampa Bay Times survey, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and the campaign for Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum said they would sign legislation that allows DREAMers to attend state colleges and universities for the same price as other Florida residents.
Gov. Rick Scott signed that very legislation in 2014. There have been unsuccessful efforts to repeal the policy.
Meanwhile, Winter Park businessman Chris King said, "Continuing this policy is the right thing to do."
The Times asked the seven major candidates for governor in both parties five questions regarding Florida's population of undocumented immigrants, the third largest in the country. While many issues related to immigration can only be addressed by elected leaders in Washington, D.C., these questions focused on policies that a governor could consider.
The Democrats —Gillum, Graham, King, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine — responded to the survey. While Republicans Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis have spent months stumping on immigration, neither responded to the questions and their campaigns instead sent a statement.
In addition to supporting in-state tuition for DREAMers, the five Democrats also said undocumented workers should be able to obtain a driver's license.
"So long as they don't have any criminal background and fully comply with our laws," Levine said.
However, candidates were split on whether the state should require employers to use E-Verify software to ensure prospective employees are lawful residents. The issue has divided Republicans in Florida as well, including Putnam and DeSantis.
Greene supports it. Gillum said such a requirement "criminalizes people's personhood" and he's against the idea. Graham said it could be a piece of broader immigration reform. King and Levine wouldn't commit to it.
When it comes to how the state reviews applications from businesses for migrant labor, Greene offered a unique solution.
Said Greene: "I would favor a system where more transparency allowed residents to know which companies were requesting these visas."
Here are the responses to the questions from each campaign.
Should the children of undocumented aliens who have established residency in Florida be allowed to receive in-state tuition?
Gillum (via spokesman Geoff Burgan): Yes — Florida's DACA students should receive in-state tuition and Andrew will not only sign legislation, but push for the legislation as well.
Graham: Yes, DREAMers with established residency in Florida should receive in-state tuition. It is currently optional for schools to waive out-of-state fees for these students, and as governor, I will work with the Legislature to change current law to require Florida's colleges and university to extend in-state tuition to these students.
Greene: Yes, those who live in Florida and pay Florida taxes should be eligible for in-state tuition to our colleges and universities.
King: As Washington tries to build walls, Florida should build bridges. Continuing this policy is the right thing to do.
Levine: DREAMers who have established residency in Florida should absolutely be able to receive in-state tuition—for the majority of them, this is the only place they've ever called home. They came here as children, went to school with our children, have grown up as part our community, and are pursuing the American dream just like the rest of us.
Should some undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements be able to obtain a non-REAL ID drivers license in Florida? What, if any, requirements would you demand?
Gillum: Yes — we'd want those Floridians to be paying taxes and take a driving test to ensure they're safe drivers. We need to do everything we can to knock down barriers that prevent people from getting identification so they can fully live their lives.
Graham: Undocumented immigrants should be able to obtain a non-REAL ID license in Florida by meeting the same requirements as documented-citizen drivers. It is estimated that more than two million Floridians drive without a license and about one-fifth of fatal car crashes involves an unlicensed driver. For the safety of all Floridians, we should allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.
Greene: I believe there should be a way for folks living in Florida to obtain a driver's license, with proof of insurance and a written and practical driving exam.
King: Given the poor state of public transportation in Florida, obtaining a driver's license is a necessity for most Florida residents –– so we've got to make sure everyone in our state is able to obtain and renew a license regardless of immigration status. l'll ensure that frivolous and unnecessary hurdles to obtaining and renewing driver's licenses are removed or defeated before they can be implemented.
Levine: People who have come to our nation to escape danger and provide for their families should be able to obtain drivers licenses, so long as they don't have any criminal background and fully comply with our laws.
Do you support statewide e-verify? Would you continue to require e-verify for state agencies and contractors?
Gillum: No — Florida can never become a "Show me your papers" state that criminalizes people's personhood.
Graham: When I was representing North Florida in Congress, I met with everyone from DREAMers to rural farmers to talk about immigration. They all agree we need comprehensive reform. I believe we should crack down on employers who knowingly and purposefully hire undocumented labor – a practice that not only hurts Floridians but in many cases exploits immigrants. E-verify could be part of a comprehensive reform plan that also gives undocumented immigrants a clear pathway to citizenship.
Greene: Yes to both.
King: I support a system that does not allow unscrupulous employers to exploit an underclass of undocumented workers, including state agencies and contractors. I do not believe e-verify in its current form achieves that goal.
Levine: We need to ensure we have laws in place that hold employers accountable and protect workers.
Should children of undocumented aliens be able to attend public schools?
Gillum: Yes they absolutely should.
Graham: Yes. As a mother, former PTA president, and public school official, I believe every single child in Florida deserves a quality public education no matter their background, where they live or what language they speak.
Greene: Yes – every child, everywhere should have access to education.
Levine: It is the state's duty, straight from the Florida Constitution, to provide a free and high-quality public education for all children residing in our state.
What, if any, changes would you make to how Florida reviews requests by companies for guest worker visas?
Gillum: Gillum will want to hear from small businesses and immigration advocates on how we make this system work better for everyone.
Graham: I believe we must ensure visas are used in cases where Floridians can't meet labor demands. We must also ensure visas are not abused to lower wages for all workers.
Greene: The State of Florida should be informed about any request for these types of workers, and I would favor a system where more transparency allowed residents to know which companies were requesting these visas.
King: We should do everything we can to lower the burden on businesses for getting high-quality, talented workers into our state while ensuring fair workplace practices and protecting visa workers from exploitation.
Levine: The irony cannot be lost that while Donald Trump campaigned on reforming the foreign labor worker visa program, he continues to utilize this program for Mar-a-Lago. We need to ensure that we maximize opportunities for those who live in our state and couple it with avenues that attract specialized labor.
Response to the survey from Putnam campaign spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice: "Adam Putnam supports President Trump's four pillars for immigration reform and has outlined his own plan to secure Florida's communities, stop sanctuary policies and keep Floridians safe. As Governor, Putnam will expand the agreement between Florida Sheriffs and ICE to detain criminal illegal aliens and will put an end to $100 million in wasteful spending on criminal illegal aliens in Florida's criminal justice system. He believes only legal workers should be hired."
Response to the survey from DeSantis campaign spokesman Dave Vasquez: "Adam Putnam fought to kill E-Verify in Florida, supported the gang of eight amnesty deal and voted with Nancy Pelosi against securing our border with troops. Ron DeSantis will sign E-Verify into law here in Florida, ensuring a legal workforce and disincentivizing illegal immigration in our state. He will work to end sanctuary cities and remove state officials who participate in abetting sanctuary city policies here in Florida."