Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Education

Carlton: Hold fast to what Florida gave dreamers

Apparently, Florida Sen. Greg Steube has discovered a terrible threat lurking under our noses.

It's teenagers.

Teenagers who live here.

Teenagers with the audacity to want to attend college.

Teenagers who are immigrants who might better themselves through education, get decent jobs and become productive members of society.

And it is a scourge that must be stopped!

Actually, this turns out to be not all that funny.

The Republican state senator from Sarasota has filed a bill intending to kill off a sensible, even admirable and notably bipartisan measure that Florida put in place two years ago to help undocumented students go to our public universities and colleges.

Or at least treat them the same as other kids who also went to high school here.

Steube wants to ditch the provision that allows these undocumented immigrant students — generally here because they were brought here, by the way — the same significant tuition break that other in-state residents get.

As someone who benefited from in-state tuition, I can tell you this is no small thing. Currently, it could reduce a year's college costs to roughly a fourth of what an out-of-state student pays. For some, access to that in-state rate is a deal-breaker for whether they'll get a degree that could mean better prospects and a surer place in the world.

How we got here was a proud moment for Tallahassee, which is not always the case.

Two years ago, folks on both sides of the political aisle somehow managed to grasp the greater good in allowing undocumented children living here the same access to higher education at our state schools.

It was especially good to see students themselves show up at the Capitol so legislators could look at the faces of who they would be voting for. Or against.

When a larger tuition bill that included the provision for in-state rates for undocumented students passed, Republican Gov. Rick Scott himself said the day was "historic."

"Students that grew up in our state are going to get the same in-state tuition as their peers, which is fair," Scott said after he signed it into law. Decent and forward thinking, too, you could have added.

Now, at this divisive moment in American politics, here comes Steube wanting to undo this.

Why? He told the Times it is a big concern for voters in his district.

But is this an actual problem or just politics? Is it just about being part of the "those people don't belong here" fever that has swept the nation?

Meaningful, or just mean-spirited?

About these young undocumented immigrants we've come to call "dreamers": We're talking about giving kids who want to go to college a better shot instead of punishing them for existing in our midst.

No doubt about it, right now it's a new America, a time we can expect great change. But this does not have to mean undoing something we managed to get right here in Florida.

And both sides of the aisle should still hold the line for, in the words of the governor himself, what's fair.

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