Florida Senator Derails In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students

In a move that has shocked Florida residents, Republican state senator Joe Negron has determined that SB 1400, a bill aimed to grant the Sunshine State’s undocumented students access to in-state tuition rates, will not be placed on the agenda for Tuesday’s Appropriations Committee meeting.

Senator Negron’s decision comes after SB 1400 moved favorably out of all the committee referrals with bipartisan support, receiving the co-sponsorship of 21 Florida senators. Those 21 senators would have constituted the majority needed to pass SB 1400 on the full floor of the Florida Senate, comprised of 40 senators.

First introduced as HB 851 by Republican Rep. Jeanette Nuñez in the Florida House of Representatives, Nuñez’s bill overwhelmingly passed—the results of a bipartisan vote made possible by the support of Speaker Will Weatherford.

Intended to alleviate the burden of out-of-state tuition costs for undocumented Florida students who met various requirements, such as attending and graduating from a Florida high school, SB 1400 also contained several provisions that even captured the support of Republican Governor Rick Scott.

This latest development essentially shut down the efforts of various organizations, as well as the voices of institutions of higher education who have been supporting the bill from its inception.

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In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, Negron outlined the following concerns about SB1400:

Florida law does not prohibit students who are undocumented from accessing our state colleges and universities. Once these students favorably resolve their residency status, they could become eligible for in-state tuition.

On this first point, Negron cast a wide generalization—that undocumented students are able to resolve their undocumented status. That of course is an issue stalled in the U.S. Congress, ironically by members of his own party. Without comprehensive immigration reform, undocumented students and those who have been covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) are unable to access in-state tuition funds.

In fact, this Session, the Senate heard from undocumented students who testified that their out-of-state tuition has been waived.  The bottom line is that state colleges and universities already have the flexibility to waive out-of-state tuition in their discretion.

SB1400 aimed to regulate where Florida universities and colleges had such authority. While the point has been argued several times in the past couple of months, many colleges have looked at the leadership of their elected representatives to ensure that they would not be chastised in any way, shape, or form by adopting policies such as the ones already adopted by Miami Dade College and Florida International University.

How many students will be impacted?  What is the actual cost of this proposal to the taxpayers of Florida?  If state colleges and universities can absorb the tens of millions of dollars in lost tuition, what effect will this policy have on limited financial aid funds for Florida students and parents? I believe it is imprudent to commit Florida to a new statewide education law without first ascertaining the present and future fiscal impact.

As one of the states with the highest migrant populations in the country, it is hard to estimate the fiscal impact would have on Florida. Bear in mind, however, that various reports said the population would be able to afford out-of-pocket costs of college at the in-state tuition level. So the impacts would be minimal.

SB 1400 would have not allowed for beneficiaries to take any money from the state or federal government. No Bright Future Scholarships or Pell grants would have been disbursed to SB 1400 beneficiaries. Moreover, how much has the Florida invested in undocumented students through public education? To deny us the opportunity to pay a fair rate, without state help, is losing out on an opportunity and investment already been made to those who are unable to legalize our immigration status.

As the bill faces an uncertain future, there are some who already deem it is “dead.”  However, others are turning up the heat—including Republicans Scott, Jeb Bush and Mel Martinez.

Meanwhile, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz had this to say about the efforts of his fellow senators:

I am told it is ‘good politics’ to support Sen. [Jack] Latvala’s bill, that it will help Republican candidates appeal to Hispanic voters in the 2014 and 2016 elections,” he wrote. “Perhaps. It is certainly true that the Republican Party has lost much of the Hispanic support President Bush earned in 2000 and 2004 and that Gov. Jeb Bush still has in our state and across the nation.

But Gaetz argued that SB 1400 is “not limited to Hispanics.”

It casts a blanket of approval over non-citizens who are in this country without proper legal status from anywhere in the world, including countries which are cauldrons of terrorism and anti-American violence,” he wrote. “There is no improper or careless intent behind the legislation, but this bill goes much further than merely reaching out to Hispanic voters.

Mr. Gaetz was right in determining that this is not just a “Hispanic issue,” but to go as far as to say that some of these students (myself included) come here from “caldrons of terrorism and anti-American violence” is insulting and unacceptable.

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Yes, many of us who find ourselves here without a legal status came here fleeing violence in our home countries, but that does not make us criminals nor terrorists. It makes us human.

We came to this country to seek a better life, for us and our families, and despite every challenge that we have been presented (no drivers licenses, no in-state tuition, no scholarships), we are still graduating and making a difference in our communities.

I don’t know about the Florida Senate, but personally, my community and I are tired of serving as the peons of a broken system that does not recognize our efforts or good will. Whatever happens with SB 1400, we are thankful for people like Senator Latvala, whose hard work has given hope to so many students around this state. Change can occur in the Sunshine State, and even as SB 1400 is falling into the pile of failed bills, we, the people of Florida, shall not remain silent.

Senator Joe Negron may think he is doing Florida a favor, but in reality he is kidnapping a piece of legislation that a majority of his party and Florida’s elected representatives support. This is political theater at its finest, one that deals a swift blow to Floridians wishing to continue their educations and strengthening the Sunshine State.

I urge everyone to tell Negron and Gaetz to schedule SB1400 for a hearing.

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Juan Escalante is an undocumented immigrant, studying for his Masters in Public Administration Candidate at Florida State University. You can follow Juan on Twitter@JuanSaaa.

Is Chris Christie Backtracking on His New Jersey DREAM Act Campaign Promise?

Remember early in November when New Jersey governor Chris Christie was being praised for being a Republican that was able to garner the Latino vote in an election?

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(Credit: Nightscream)

The Daily Beast, for example, reminded readers that right before Christie’s re-election sweep, he had changed his position on New Jersey’s version of a DREAM Act, making the point that even though Christie didn’t support the bill in 2011, he was for it, just one month before New Jersey went to the polls in the race against him and opponent Barbara Buono:

Last month, however, Christie came out in favor of the measure, saying that the state’s fiscal position had improved enough to make granting in-state tuition for the undocumented viable.

“What I always have said is that when economic times got better, that that would be one of the things that I would consider,” Christie said during a debate with Buono at Montclair State University. “It’s time now — given that economic times are getting better and the state budget revenues are going up.”

Now, just a few weeks after, Christie changed his tune. As one outlet reported, Christie is still all for in-state tuition for DREAMers, but the current bill being considered in the Senate is a no go:

“They’re overreaching and making it unsignable and making the benefits richer than the federal program, the federal Dream Act, that’s simply not acceptable for me.”

Christie’s problem? That the current bill could create too many loopholes, especially the one that “could allow out-of-state residents – regardless of their immigration status – to qualify for in-state tuition if they attend private high school in New Jersey.”

He also added this:

“I want tuition equality for folks, but I don’t want a program that’s richer than the federal program and richer than other states which could make us become a magnet state for people.”

As you can imagine, immigrant rights groups in New Jersey are pushing back. One immigration advocate from Dover said this, “That is not what he said to the Dover Latino community when he was campaigning in our town just a month ago.”

So what’s the scoop, governor? By the way, New Jersey’s state assembly seems to be going full speed ahead on things.

UPDATE: CNN reports new comments made today by Christie:

“I said the legislature should move toward tuition equality,” he said Monday in a press conference. “I didn’t support any particular piece of legislation. And I still support tuition equality.”

Immigration activists argue Christie pledged his support for the legislation during an October gala, less than a month before he won re-election.

“I believe every child should be able to give the opportunity to reach their God-given potential,” he said at the event. “We need to make sure that we continue to work on issues that will make those children believe they have a bigger and brighter future. We need to get to work in the state legislature on things like making sure that there’s tuition equality for everybody in New Jersey.”

Via Fusion: Should DREAMers Get Special Treatment? (VIDEO)

Let’s just say this: we love Juan Escalante, known to us on Twitter as @JuanSaaa, and so when he shared this video today where he debates DA King on Fusion, of course we were going to share it.

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Here is the segment.

#BringTheHome: Real Faces, Real Voices (VIDEOS)

Look beyond the debate and the politics. Tomorrow’s #BringThemHome border action is about real people. If you overthink it, you will miss the point.

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Meet Javier.

Meet Ana.

Meet Marco.

Meet Jonathan.

Meet Ingrid.

This ain’t no publicity stunt. This is real.

To meet more DREAMers, go here.

#BringThemHome: Meet the DREAMers Protesting for Real Immigration Reform and End to Deportations

Tomorrow 30 DREAMers will hold a second border protest to bring more attention to the growing inaction on immigration reform and a deportation policy by the Obama administration that has reached record highs.

While many will question why now, we take a moment a remind everyone that this is all about real lives and real people. While others tell people to stay patient about immigration reform and don’t rock the boat, what about these faces below? What do you tell them?

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For a complete list of the people behind these images, go here. Or just click on their stories below.

DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Pablo Vivas, Fulfilling a Dying Mothers Wish
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Alberto Peniche, Future Physiologist from Revere, MA
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Marcela, Forced to Leave Chicago to Care for Dying Grandmother
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Alfredo Cornejo Fights to Return to Marion, North Carolina
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Marco Pacheco, Fights to Return to Dallas, Texas
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Sandra: “Peru is Not Safe For Gay People”!
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Cesar Ortiz, Future Architect from Columbus, Ohio!
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Vidal:”Leaving Was a Mistake; Phoenix is My Home!
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Javier, 16, Fleeing Violence in Michoacan!
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Israel Rodriguez, Columbia Graduate, Fights to Come Home!
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Juan Manuel Roa “Two of my uncles were already kidnapped…”
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Ana Rojas, “They Attacked My Brother with a Machete!
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Georgia Misses Dreamer Jonathan!
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Lorena Vargas, Banned Until 2022!?!
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Edna Diaz, Visa Revoked, Deported and Banned for 5 Years”
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Brandol “Talamontes Murdered My Uncle!”
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Karen is Ready to Come Home & Face Arpaio!
DreamActivist: #BringThemHome: Edgar Torres – “Even the Police Extort us here!”

We hope you take the time to actual READ some of these stories we linked. This ain’t no publicity stunt, people. This is the real deal.

30 Dreamers to Cross Border Asking Obama to #BringThemHome

Today LatinoRebels.com received the following media advisory from DreamActivist.

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MEDIA ADVISORY: Sept 30: 30 Dreamers to Cross Border Asking Obama to ‘#BringThemHome’

Thirty Dreamers will Ask Obama to ‘Bring Them Home’

NATIONAL—The National Immigrant Youth Alliance will hold its second border protest on Monday, September 30. 30 Dreamers will participate in the action as part of the ‘#BringThemHome’ campaign.

Last week, the president and House Republicans dashed the immigrant community’s hopes for relief this year. We are here to remind them to not give up hope; we can fight the broken immigration system ourselves.

The Dreamers will present themselves at a port of entry, wearing caps and gowns, asking to be permitted into the United States. In July, nine Dreamers presented themselves at the Morley Gate at the port of entry in Nogales, Arizona. It took seventeen days for the Obama Administration to make the right decision and allow them to return home, during which the nine Dreamers were detained in Eloy Detention Center.

The group received international attention, becoming known as the ‘Dream 9’, and received the support of hundreds of organizations, including national advocacy groups and labor unions. 43 members of Congress sent letters to the president in support of the Dream 9. An online petition supporting them received more than 27,000 signatures.

The participants in the Sept. 30 action are hoping to return to their lives in Arizona, California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas. Not all of the participants are living in Mexico, but have come from elsewhere to participate in the action.

The location of the protest will be released publicly later this week. Media interested in attending must contact us privately at [email protected]. Interviews can be arranged upon request with participants and their counsel by contacting us at [email protected].

The fight to keep families together happens every day, everywhere that immigrants fear leaving their homes and being separated from their families. We are putting back together the families that the president and unjust laws have broken apart.

The Most Illogically Bizarre Immigration Reform Story We Have Ever Written

What started as an online share of a Breitbart piece falsely claiming that Dream Activist was actively telling young DREAMers to purposely lie about their immigration status has led to a complicated web of accusations and attacks lobbied against several Dream Activist leaders, according to tweets and links shared by the immigrant rights’ group.

That tweet took us to the following story by Tequila Party founder Dee Dee Blase Garcia, who wrote the following about Prerna Lal, a Dream Activist founder:

Prerna Lal’s immigration views do not represent Mexican-American voters and our views with regard to Comprehensive Legal Immigration Reform. American voters have a responsibility to shape policy direction. Earlier this morning, Brietbart [sic] wrote an article highlighting the founders of DreamActivist.org with the below story:

The story Blase Garcia included? The very same Breitbart piece that was already proven to be misleading and inaccurate by immigration lawyer David Leopold, the same David Leopold who had sided with Blase Garcia on a HuffPost Live segment about the #Dream9, the group of nine undocumented individuals who entered the U.S. to protest the record-breaking deportations of President Obama.

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Are you still with us?

Now, Leopold had been critical of the #Dream9, but his comments pretty much discrediting the Brietbart piece got the following tweet from Dream Activist:

Yet, that didn’t stop Blase Garcia from continuing to use Breitbart as her source about why Dream Activist was bad for America. Just a few paragraphs after quoting the first inaccurate Breitbart piece, the Tequila Party founder wrote that Dream Activist were just anti-American and extremists. Her proof?

Another Breitbart piece by the same writer who wrote the first Breitbart piece that Leopold had already discredited. This new piece reported that Lal had tweeted in July (yes, July) that “that people should not ‘mess with Fijians’ since she claimed that Fijians had killed, roasted, and eaten ‘white invaders’ in the past.” Granted, no one at Breitbart bothered to report that Lal is actually married to a white woman, although it did say that the Twitter profile being targeted no longer exists and all the tweets were deleted.

What is interesting to note is: why now? Why did Breitbart decide to publish a story about a sarcastic tweet that was 1) already deleted; 2) part of an account that no longer exists; and 3) two months old? Interestingly, the Breitbart piece did not report much about Lal’s new Twitter profile, because it is now private. Nonetheless, Dream Activist’s Twitter shared the following comments with us:

Earlier in the summer, the Tequila Party’s Facebook page called Dream Activist leader Mohammad Abdollahi “an Arabic (DREAM Act) Student that does not represent the voice of millions of Mexican-American voters.” Abdollahi is originally from Iran, and is not Arabic. Why say “Arabic?”

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Meanwhile, a Daily Kos piece written by “A Dose of Tequila” included the following:

Far right wing media outlets like Brietbart already appear to be anti-Mexican but they also have intentions to use a couple of radical leaders who refer to our Nation as “Amerikkka” or  have anti-white views as the poster children for the DREAM Act even though they know damned well most of the DREAM Act students have pledged their allegiance to our Nation and are aspiring to become contributing Americans of our society.  Wouldn’t it make sense for the far right wing media outlets to highlight the patriotic students who want to achieve the American dream while contributing talents or the education they received here?
Why are the far right wing Conservative media outlets choosing the two most extreme radicals that have opposing views of reasonable DREAMers and/or the Mexican-American voter?  It is a well known fact that the fight is for legal immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.

The post by “A Dose of Tequila” shared “proof” that Lal and Abdollahi had voted for Mitt Romney and were the reason why immigration reform had not passed in Congress yet. (Not the six-week Congressional recess or talk about Syria). The post also said that Dream Activist was staging actions to solicit donations. The Tequila post on Kos also included this:

We are keenly aware that the Gang of Eight Comprehensive Immigration Reform passed the Democratic controlled Senate and we have a hurdle yet to overcome via the Republican Controlled House of Representatives. Extreme views will be used by anti-immigrant folks and they will take every opportunity to use bad examples to make it harder for us to convince moderate Republicans to be a part of a CIR bipartisanship deal.
Since undocumented immigrants cannot vote, it is up to us — the American voter to do our best to see a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill signed by President Obama. We know that the bill will not be perfect and we know and understand a compromise has to be made in an effort to convince the GOP Controlled house of representatives.
We are at the point where we want to see our fellow man who has been living in the shadows come out with his/her head up high taking a sigh of relief knowing they no longer have to hide anymore.

So this is what we think is going on. Pro-immigration reform supporters of an imperfect bill that emphasizes security over humanity are using several inaccurate Breitbart articles against comprehensive immigration reform as the basis of a theory that the two DREAMErs who are pushing for a better version of the imperfect immigration bill are really against the current bill and against President Obama. So, who is for Obama and who is against him? Galindo and Blase Garcia? Breitbart? Who knows, but we do know that this has truly become “tomfoolery” and right now, more than 1,100 people are still getting deported each day in the U.S.

But let’s keep taking screen grabs of the social media comments of two DREAMers to prove that they are bringing down comprehensive immigration reform bill, and let’s use the news outlet that is AGAINST the bill as out main source.

Yes, that is what we have become here.

#NoMames: The Breitbart Narrative of the Shifty “Radical” DREAMer Is Just Sad

We get it. In the age of a losing immigration battle, the haters are getting desperate. Such is the case of Bretbart’s Lee Stranahan, whose September 5 piece, “‘DREAMER’ WEBSITE TEACHES ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ‘HOW TO LIE SUCCESSFULLY’” [yes, ALL CAPS are necessary], makes the shocking conclusion that undocumented people sometimes lie about their status. Hence, these liars are bad for America. We won’t get into too much details about the piece, but you have to love phrases such as “the radical website Dream Activist” and the fact the DREAMers are actually “part of the aggressive pro-illegal immigration ‘Dreamer movement’ that is leading the fight for ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, with a boost from President Barack Obama and many in Congress.”

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Now, if only Stranahan actually KNEW about the DREAMErs, some of President Obama’s most vocal critics. They even call Obama The Deporter-in-Chief. Nonetheless, we thought part of out response should involve some actual intelligence, so we asked prominent immigration lawyer David Leopold to share his thoughts about the Breitbart piece. Here is what Leopold had to say:

In 2011 Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize winning undocumented immigrant, outed his lack of immigration status in a very moving essay published in the New York Times Magazine. Vargas didn’t hold back about how he survived life in America without legal status. In painstaking detail he recounted the lies and half-truths he was forced to concoct in order to survive, grow, and contribute to his country, the United States of America.

Unfortunately, as was evident from Vargas’ piece, the broken immigration system forces otherwise honest, law-abiding people to be less than truthful and yes, sometimes lie about their personal circumstances. While I have had my differences with Dream Activist over matters of policy and tactics, I think, to be fair, the Breitbart piece should have made it clear that the Dream Activist website post clearly warned DREAMERS not to lie to any government official, stating “Undocumented youth should never lie about their immigration status to anybody or anything ‘official’, such as anything in writing and anything government-related”. That’s a critical caveat, because it’s a clear directive not to engage fraud, material misrepresentations, or other dishonesty when dealing with immigration or other government agencies.

One thing is clear to me, the Dream Activist web post underscores the need to for Speaker Boehner and the House GOP leadership to get serious about fixing the immigration system so that good people can come out of the shadows and continue to give back to the country they have struggled against all odds to enrich.

What a surprise. Breitbart overlooks facts to create a false narrative for the neo-nativists.

VIDEO: “I’m Not a Criminal. I Came Here to Make a Change”

For all the numbers and debates about immigration, in the end, it is all about real stories.

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Here is one of those real stories.

Two New York DREAMers Arrested in Rally Calling on Gov. Cuomo to Pass NY DREAM Act

This week in front of the New York City office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, two members of the New York State Youth Leadership Council were arrested during a peaceful demonstration urging the governor to pass the state’s version of the DREAM Act. After the arrests, NYSYLC published the words of the two individuals arrested, Verónica Bayetti Flores and Marco Galaviz.

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Here is what Flores wrote:

I am a queer immigrant writer, activist, and artist. I’ve worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color, and helped to lead social justice efforts in Wisconsin, New York City, and Texas.

Today, I stand as an ally to undocumented youth in the effort to demand the passage of the New York State DREAM Act, which has the potential to radically transform undocumented young people’s access to education in New York. In preparing for today’s action, I re-read the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail; the powerful lessons of this open letter remain relevant today. In it, Dr. King assures us that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, and that it must be not only demanded by the oppressed, but demanded now. That, although those who have not suffered from racial injustice too often claim that the time is not right, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

Justice has been denied to undocumented immigrants for too long. I am doing this today because I am a reproductive justice activist, and I know that education impacts access to health care. I am doing this today because I am queer, and I know that queer youth of color in New York are disproportionately poor and unable to afford housing, much less the rising costs of higher education. I am doing this today because, as an immigrant who was not eligible for financial aid when I applied for college, I know that most will not have the luck and the privilege that I had when I was still able to access the education has been integral to my success and happiness.

The comprehensive immigration reform being discussed in Congress will not address many of these concerns, and will leave much to be desired. State efforts like the New York DREAM Act remain critical in to the path toward justice for undocumented youth. Today, I demand that Governor Cuomo make this bill a priority. He needs to know that he does not have Latinos and immigrants in the bag if he has his eyes set on a presidential run in 2016: we need action, and we are watching.

Here is what Galaviz wrote:

I am 21 years old and a student at New York University, studying film and television. I am doing this action, because as someone who is formally undocumented, I know how it feels to not be able to go to school because of lack of financial aid. I remember being accepted to NYU, while still being undocumented and being denied both federal and school financial aid, and was forced to defer for a year, and put on hold my college dream. No one should have to go through that. I urge Gov. Cuomo to pass the NY Dream Act.