State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami (Pic by Meredith Geddings, via myfloridahouse.gov)

Students Working for Equal Rights and other groups will hold a prayer vigil at the Miami office of Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores today, two days after a Florida Senate committee shot down a bill that would have allowed U.S.-born children of undocumented workers to qualify for in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges.

State Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, who filed the “Resident Status for Tuition Purposes” bill, said during the Tuesday committee meeting that his measure “is an equity bill” that “would clarify an injustice” because “right now an American-born citizen cannot qualify for in-state tuition even if he or she meets the residency requirements of the state because of the residency status of their parents.”

A statement released by Students Working for Equal Rights points out that according to Florida law, “in-state qualification is determined by the submission of tax and residency documentation,” a situation that “has created a loophole that denies eligibility to any student unable to provide such paperwork, not only due to their own immigration status or of their parents, but also due to parental absence, divorce, or incarceration.”

The release issued by the activist organization adds that “more than 190,000 undocumented youth residing in Florida are affected by this, and many more who are US Citizens and legal permanent residents.”

Dulce Beltran — a college registrar at Miami-Dade College who spoke at the Senate hearing in favor of the bill — pointed out that “we have students whose parents are incarcerated, who face tremendous uphill battles to prove residency, and the parents are U.S. residents, Florida residents.”

“These are students who have never stepped out of Florida,” Beltran said. “The parents are no where to be found” and “the student has no way to prove residency.”

Students Working for Equal Rights will ask Flores and the “Hispanic Caucus to lead the way for two bills (SB106 and HB81) that would grant tuition equity for ALL Florida students regardless of their status or that of their parents. This will grant [the] basic right to affordable education for thousands of students from the Hispanic community.”

Flores is the vice chair of the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation, and co-introduced the bill that failed to pass Tuesday.

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