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House passes bill giving kids of immigrant parents better college access

Posted on Friday, April 4, 2014 at 9:59 am

By Tiffanie Reynolds
Staff Writer
A bill giving American-born children of immigrant parents and Purple Heart recipients more access to college education in Florida recently was passed by the Florida House of Representatives.
The Postsecondary Education Tuition bill, co-sponsored by state Rep. Ricardo Rangel, D-Kissimmee, adds amendments that grants children born from immigrant parents in Florida permission to enroll as a resident at state universities and colleges, qualifying them for in-state tuition. For children born from illegal immigrant parents in the U.S. they often have to pay out-of-state tuition costs because they don’t qualify as a resident, because of their parents. It also adds amendments to expand the current in-state tuition waivers for Purple Heart recipients to include technical and career based schools.
The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces who are wounded in combat,
“I think it’s a great opportunity for Florida,” said Rangel. “It’s a great opportunity for students to receive their education. One of the things that I hate to see are students who have to go in, through no fault of their own, and have to get all these student loans to even try to qualify for school. And, at that point, when they’ve graduated they’re going to have a $100,000 debt. This bill will help with that situation and make college more affordable
for everyone.”
As of 2012, there were 15,570,432 people born from immigrant parents in the state of Florida, with 17.6 percent of that number between the ages of 5 and 17, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Because their parents are not U.S. citizens, it makes access to postsecondary education or even a driver’s license, harder for them to achieve. This bill will make it easier for them to obtain higher education at a lower cost.
Immigration is one of Rangel’s key issues as a Florida district representative. Born to immigrant parents, his father joined the U.S. military and was able to become a U.S. citizen. While Rangel isn’t personally affected by immigration issues, he said that giving more opportunity to those born in the U.S. to immigrant families will not only help them, but the country’s economy as a whole.
“If we continue to help these students in progressing and getting their education, one, there will be less of a chance for them to be unemployed and they’ll actually be able to help and not fall into the stigmas of immigrants. And, by them being employed, they’re contributing to the economy,” said Rangel.
The bill is currently going through the Florida Senate, and Rangel expects the bill to have a good chance of passing and going in front of Gov. Rick Scott.