By Lloyd Dunkelberger
LEDGER Capital Bureau
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 11:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 11:50 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE | The 2013 Legislature will be a testing ground for determining whether state leaders are changing their views toward immigration issues.

Republican legislative leaders, as well as Gov. Rick Scott, have previously taken a hard line against easing restrictions against undocumented residents. But following a presidential election, in which Democrats handily won the Hispanic vote, and calls by some national GOP leaders for a more moderate stance on immigration, state lawmakers again will confront a number of immigration-related issues this spring.

One of the most visible is a plan to allow dependent children of parents who are not citizens to receive in-state tuition instead of having to pay costly out-of-state rates when they attend a community college, state college or university. For university students, in some cases, it means an annual savings of $20,000.

Similar bills have been filed since 2003 but failed.

State Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, who has backed other in-state tuition bills, said the fate of the legislation and other immigration issues remains uncertain when lawmakers return to Tallahassee in March for their 60-day annual session.

"The rhetoric has softened but when the rubber meets the road, we'll see in this session," Soto said.

Bolstering chances for the tuition legislation this year is a ruling by a federal judge last fall concluding that the state's practice of making students who were born in the U.S. but whose parents were illegal immigrants pay higher out-of-state rates was unconstitutional. The state declined to appeal the ruling.

2013 Legislative Session to Grapple With Immigration |