As a legal academic, immigration scholar and an old-fashion curmudgeon, I tend to be cynical and not typically a fan of catchy marketing efforts. However, in this instance, I have to applaud my home institution, Florida International University, for perhaps being "Worlds Ahead," but unquestionably for being the leader in the state on issues affecting the lives of thousands, if not millions, of local immigrant families.
In addition to encouraging its law school, through the support of Dean Alex Acosta and Professor Juan Gomez, to conduct more than two dozen free weekend deferred action clinics, more than any institution in the country (helping more than a thousand families in the last few months alone), the university has taken the courageous, but largely unnoticed step that will unquestionably change the lives of tens of thousands in our community. After months of deliberation, document exchanges and legal discussions between legal counsel and a handful immigration activists/scholars including Professor Erik Camayd-Freixas, Provost Doug Wartzok and University President Mark Rosenberg took the lead and announced a few weeks ago that Florida International University will provide in-state tuition waivers for recipients of deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA recipients).
As one the professors that also fought for this opportunity for our youth, I am familiar with these issues and believe the university stands on solid legal ground for its decision. While the legal questions related to the matter are quite involved, and were not readily apparent to many that first opined on the matter, FIU is wise and legally correct in its decision to act here for immigrant families. Nevertheless, the decision took considerable political will and courage -- virtues that goes far beyond labels and are frankly rare in this state or in this country for that matter. While a handful of states, including New York and California, have allowed for in-state tuition for these youth, affectionately called dreamers, Florida and is education system's board of governors seemed ready to take the opposite stance despite the sheer number, and economic power, of immigrants in this state. Fortunately, after the legal haggling mentioned above coupled with media features on Univision and Tele-Miami, the tide seemed to change, and FIU took its leadership stance on this important issue. Thus, starting this fall semester, DACA recipients will be able to apply for in-state tuition waivers at FIU. While the state has thus far failed to take a similar wise and honorable stance, potentially exposing itself legally once again, FIU has certainly been at least ahead of the rest in this state, and should be applauded. Rumor has it other universities, such as Florida Atlantic University and Florida State University are now considering following FIU's position. Well done FIU!