A group calling itself Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (or, FLIMEN) is putting on the full-court press to get legislators to derail HB 851, a bill that would allow all students who have studied in Florida for three consecutive years the opportunity to pay in-state tuition at a state college or university, regardless of immigration status.
On Thursday, the bill was approved by the House Appropriations Committee by a 19-7 vote. The bill has also had overwhelming support from the Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee, chaired by Miami Republican Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and even Gov. Rick Scott.
FLIMEN, however, is calling on its members to get on the horn with their representative, senator or Governor Scott, and urge them to stop a bill that FLIMEN says will hurt legal citizens, take away jobs and depress wages, by helping illegals.
In a press release, the group calling for a halt to the bill because, as they put it, "it provides more benefits for illegal aliens while immigration laws are still so blatantly not enforced."
FLIMEN is accusing Rick Scott of flip-flopping on his once staunch stance on immigration. Scott was once all about cracking down on illegals, but last week threw his support behind the bill.
"The bottom line here in Florida is HB851/SB1400 will cause an unknown number of legal students to be displaced from college by illegal alien students, FLIMEN says. "There is absolutely no estimate of the fiscal cost of college tuition subsidy for illegal aliens."
FLIMEN cites a House of Representatives Staff Analysis to show that it's unknown how much it will cost to subsidize college tuition for illegal aliens.
"The fiscal impact is indeterminate as it is difficult to identify the number of students who meet the criteria outlined in the bill," the analysis says.
On Thursday, Nuñez added language to the bill to keep colleges and universities from raising their tuition rates more than six percent above the rate set by the Florida Legislature, the Miami Herald reported.
Nuñez said she added the provision to make the House proposal more like the one in the Senate. That bill prohibits colleges and universities from raising tuition above the rate set by lawmakers, and already has the support of Gov. Rick Scott.
The bottom line is the bill is getting heavy support from Republicans, who are normally against this kind of thing.
Legislators say the bill makes both fiscal and moral sense. It's an investment. The bill also exempts veterans of the US military, including reserve components from the payment of out-of-state fees, according to a Florida House press release.
But FLIMEN sees this as a Republican Party "wimp-out."
"Rep. Nunez trashed opponents of her bill as a 'boisterous minority' who spread 'false and misleading information,'" FLIMEN claims. "She claimed the issue was "not about immigration."
This isn't the first time the group has taken off the gloves against Republican leaders and their perceived failure to cure the immigrant situation. Last year, FLIMEN launched a "Pink Slip Rubio" campaign against Marco Rubio after the senator tried to tackle the sticky immigration issue.
Here is a list of Republicans who voted for and against the bill, via the Herald:
Voting in favor of the measure: Republican Reps. Dennis Baxley; Marti Coley; Steve Crisafulli; Erik Fresen; Eddy Gonzalez; Ed Hooper; Seth McKeel; Marlene O'Toole; Jimmy Patronis; and Dana Young; and Democratic Reps. Joe Gibbons; Janet Cruz; Reggie Fullwood; Mia Jones; Mark Pafford; Hazel Rogers; Darryl Rouson; Cynthia Stafford; and Alan Williams.
Voting against: Republican Reps. Ben Albritton; Richard Corcoran; Jamie Grant; Matt Hudson; Clay Ingram; Charles McBurney and Greg Steube.
Calls and emails to FLIMEN for comment on this story have gone unanswered.