SARASOTA, Fla. - Over the last decade, there has been growing bipartisan consensus that Congress should provide legal immigration status for young adults who came to this country as children and graduated from American high schools.
Over a year ago, President Obama signed an executive order calling for deferred action for childhood arrivals, also known as DACA. But many undocumented students hoping to attend college still face barriers.
Luis Guzman is a senior at Riverview High School and is part of their advanced and rigorous IB program. His family came to the United States from Mexico when he was just 5 years old,
And although he is now a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, he still does not qualify for in state tuition as he tries to pursue a college education.
"It's really limited to the colleges you can apply to. You can apply to all of them, but not all of them give you financial aid. So I've had to like go a lot of options to be able to afford it."
Luis' parents, like many in his situation, work in the service industry and would be not be able to afford college for their son. But the local Hispanic non-profit Unidos Now is pushing for the State of Florida to pass a bill allowing DACA students, as well as undocumented students, to pay in-state tuition fees like the rest of their peers.
"They're stellar students; they want to be engineers, they want to be nurses, they want to go into these professions that our economy needs," says Cathaleen Kaiyoorawongs with Unidos Now.
Guillermo has lived in the U.S. for 8 years and is actively involved at Riverview as the president of the Enviromental Club. He plans to pursue a degree in engineering. “What do I strive to become? An independent person that doesn't have to live off the government, doesn't have to live off other people, especially give back to my parents, and give back to the community that's kind of made me who I am today."
Unidos Now says there are fewer than 20 states that have passed legislation allowing immigrant students to pay in-state tuition, and their hope is that in 2014 it will become a reality for students in Florida.
In 2012 the bill relating to post-secondary student tuition for immigrants never made it to the Senate. But this year the Florida Education Committee is hoping to get the bill through to the Florida Senate to be voted on.