Flip Flops in Florida

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Filed Under Latest News, Policy on May 5 

As the Florida Legislature winds up its session by passing legislation giving in-state tuition for DREAMers, students who were brought into the country illegally as children, Republican Governor Rick Scott and his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist have been accusing each other of letting down Florida’s Hispanic voters, who make up nearly 15% of the population. After campaigning on tough immigration laws in 2010 and then vetoing a bill to give DREAMers driver’s licences in 2013, Gov. Scott changed his tune in the last year or so. First he decided that children of illegal immigrants born in the state deserve tuition breaks and then in February of this year he admitted he would “certainly consider” giving DREAMers tuition breaks. By the middle of April, he was standing shoulder to shoulder with Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez, or at least issuing a joint statement with the two former Republican Governors, fully approving in-state tuition for students who had “spent their childhood here in Florida.” Democratic opponent Charlie Crist, who was running as a Republican at the time, opposed the in-state tuition for illegal immigrants back in 2006. He now supports the legislation.

The reduced tuition fees in question are less than a third of those paid by out of state students, like someone born in Georgia who would like to attend college in Florida, for example. Is this charity, or an investment in Florida’s future, or is this just vote buying? The flip flops that Crist and Scott engaged in indicate that votes are what counts in every sense. Inside the Hispanic community, how much does this issue matter to Cuban Americans as opposed to immigrants from Central or South America who arrived without following the law? As the Hispanic vote gains clout, and it is, what added entitlements will be demanded by them? Florida declared English as its official language in 1988 while a Miami-Dade county ordinance declaring itself bilingual has been passed, overturned and then reinstated. Doral’s mayor, who is from Venezuela, attempted to make Spanish the city’s second language. He was rebuffed by fellow council members; all women, all Latinas from Cuba and Mexico. Maybe they understand that coming to America means learning to work and study in English, and maybe those who came illegally with their parents will someday understand that in-state tuition is a substantial gift that they are receiving at the expense of other deserving students.

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