Tallahassee, FL - May 2, 2014 - Today, on the last day of the Florida legislative session, the Florida legislature passed House Bill ("HB") 851, a bill that dramatically expands college access for undocumented students in Florida who grew up in the state and graduated from local high schools, by allowing them to pay in-state tuition when enrolling in Florida colleges. The bill was approved with overwhelming support with 26 votes in favor and 13 against in the Florida Senate and with 84 votes in favor and 32 against in the Florida House.
Today the Florida legislature also expected to give final approval to HB 755, which makes it possible for a non-citizen immigrant who entered the U.S. without authorization to be granted a license to practice law in Florida provided certain other circumstances are met. The bill was introduced to address the case of Jose Godinez-Samperio, 27, of Largo, a graduate of Florida State University's College of Law, tried without success for more than two years to gain admission to the Florida Bar and fulfill his dream of becoming an immigration lawyer. In March of this year, the Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously that it could not help Godinez-Samperio because federal law prevents giving taxpayer-funded public benefits to undocumented immigrants. Justices urged the Legislature to intervene and exempt Florida from that law, which led to HB 755. Americans for Immigrant Justice ("AI Justice") filed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Godinez-Samperio in the Florida Supreme Court. "We are thrilled that our legislature has acted to correct this injustice. Now any hard working person-regardless of where they are from-who graduates from law school, passes the Florida Bar exam, and is deemed fit by our Bar to practice law here, will have an equal opportunity to do so," said Joseph Anderson, Director of Litigation for AI Justice.
"Finally some good news. We applaud the Florida legislature for supporting our immigrant families and their children. These laws will help the undocumented young men and women who live in and contribute to our communities every day to share in the American dream," said Cheryl Little, Executive Director of AI Justice. "Now children who have grown up here and attended high school in Florida will have the chance to afford to attend one of our great Florida colleges or universities," said Ms. Little.
HB 851 will now go to Gov. Rick Scott who has said he will sign the bill. If HB 755 receives final approval today, it will also go the Governor who has also publicly stated he will sign the bill.