Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge: Florida violating Constitution by charging higher tuition to children of undocumented immigrants

A federal judge has ruled the state is discriminating against potentially thousands of U.S. citizens who live in Florida by charging them higher out-of-state tuition as nonresident students simply because their parents may lack legal U.S. residency.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore found Friday that Florida's rule classifying such students according to their parents' undocumented immigration status violates the Constitution's equal-protection provision.

"By virtue of their classification, (these Florida students) are denied a benefit in the form of significantly lower tuition rates to the state's public post-secondary educational institutions," the judge found in a 19-page opinion that was highly critical of the state's policy.

"This creates an additional obstacle for (them) to attain post-secondary education from one of the state's public institutions that is not faced by other residents."

Moore, who was nominated by the first President George Bush and confirmed in 1992, further found the policy "does not advance any legitimate state interest, much less the state's important interest in furthering educational opportunities for its own residents."

The state's Department of Education said it has received the judge's ruling and is reviewing it.

The Florida students' lawsuit was filed in October 2011 by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center represents students who are U.S. citizens and Florida residents whose parents cannot prove legal immigration status.

Florida's policy is the result of administrative rules created in 2005. Though state law deals with tuition residency issues, it delegates the responsibility to draw up specific rules to the Department of Education (for community colleges) and the Board of Governors (for state universities).

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimated hundreds or thousands of Florida students could be affected by the judge's ruling. As the policy stands, students who are classified as "nonresidents" in Florida can be charged more than triple the cost of in-state tuition. The policy affects those under age 24 and who are claimed as dependents by parents.

The center, based in Montgomery, Ala., hailed the judge's decision.

"Today is a great day for these young people across the state of Florida who simply wanted the opportunity to get an education and, with that, a chance for the American Dream," said the center's deputy legal director, Jerri Katzerman.

"This policy, which was blatantly unconstitutional, will no longer be a roadblock for these young students who may very well be the state's leaders of tomorrow."

In the case of Wendy Ruiz, who was born and raised in Miami, the state's policy has created a financial hardship for the U.S. citizen. In the eyes of Florida's higher education system, she's a dependent student whose parents are undocumented immigrants — and not considered legal Florida residents.

As such, Ruiz, the lead plaintiff in the case, has been charged higher-priced out-of-state tuition at Miami Dade College — even though she has a Florida birth certificate, Florida driver's license and is a registered Florida voter. One semester of in-state tuition at Miami Dade College costs about $1,200, while out-of-state students pay roughly $4,500.

Ruiz must work multiple part-time jobs just to pay for one class. Other similarly affected students have given up on college.

She was unavailable for comment. But in an interview last year with the Miami Herald at the time the suit was filed, she said: "As an American, and a lifelong Florida resident, I deserve the same opportunities."

The ruling gives immigration advocates another victory. Earlier this year, the Obama administration decided to allow students who came to the U.S. as children a chance to seek deferred action on their immigration status.

Miami Herald staff writer Laura Isensee contributed to this report.

Judge: Florida violating Constitution by charging higher tuition to children of undocumented immigrants 09/04/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 9:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated

    College

    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person

    College

    TAMPA

    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings