Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, in an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, says the state cannot afford to lose the talents and promise that lies within children of undocumented immigrants.
These children are in the middle of a struggle — through no fault of their own — between mandatory attendance of public schools and dreams of higher education that just might be out of their reach.
Weatherford writes that he joins other Florida officials frustrated by the lack of action on the federal level to resolve the situation, leading millions of immigrants confused and frustrated over their legal status.
Essential to securing Florida’s economic future in the 21st century is providing a post-secondary education to its children. Governments lag behind in recognizing the technological innovation shaping the next several decades. Advances in robotics will eliminate many jobs, such as factory workers and typists, in 20 years, according to a study by Oxford University. Those who cannot keep pace will be left behind.
If a child of undocumented workers is raised in Florida, and graduated from high school in the state, Weatherford feels there is no reason they should not have the opportunity for higher education “under the same terms we reserve their peers” whose parents have legal standing.
Starting in 2014, Florida can lead the issue by providing a “welcome contrast” to Washington dysfunction. Weatherford says the problem cannot be ignored here simply because there is federal gridlock half a country away.
Failure to act by the Legislature only makes the problem worse. Florida can join sixteen states that have so far addressed this issue. That is why he says he will champion a bill allowing all of Florida’s children to pay in-state tuition, as long as they are academically qualified and attended a Florida high school.
Weatherford sees it as a “moral consideration” to extend this benefit to children who, again by no fault of their own, are prevented from unlocking the vast potential born within each of us.