Be the DREAM: Rally for in-state tuition at Rollins College
In front of Mills Lawn on the Rollins College Campus, students and broader community members lined up to hear touching stories of undocumented youth denied opportunities to attend college. Approximately 5,000 undocumented students graduate from highschools in Florida, and very few can access college or university because thei rfamilies cannot afford out-of state tuition. The Florida DREAM Act would allow public colleges and universities inthe State of Florida to charge undocumented students the in-state tuition rate rather than the out-of-state rates. It would not grant legal status to undocumented immigrants.
Earlier this month, the Florida legislative session began with versions of the Dream Act bills introduced in the state House of Representatives by Rep. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) and in the Florida Senate by Sen. Gary Siplin (D-Orlando).
The rally entitled“Be the Dream” took place as part of Rollins College’s week long series o fevents commemorating the legacy of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther KingJr. A diverse group of constituencies including faith leaders, students, civic engagement and civil rights organizations all came together to speak out and rally support for the legislation that currently sits in committee waiting to be voted on.
Speakers emphasized the message that in-state tuition is not a reward and that it allows thousands of Florida students to pay exactly the same as their peers for higher education. Currently, states likes Texas, California, and New Mexico, who have an immigrant majority, already have in-state tuition laws. Florida is one ofthe only states left that does not.
The keynote speaker at the event included Juan Rodriguez who is one of the one of four students that led a 1,500 mile trek from Miami to DC and met with President Obama to demand equal access to education for undocumented students. Juan is currently the executive assistant to the Director at the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC). Other speakers included Sister Ann Kendrick from the Hope Community Center and musical performances by local Rollins College artists.
Throughout the event, volunteers collected signatures for a petition in favor of the Florida version of the Dream Act and announced upcoming mobilizations to Tallahassee to urge legislators to vote in favor of it. In the end, the community came together to show their commitments of turning a dream of higher education into a reality for the state’s undocumented youth.
Several organizations worked together to plan this event, including ACLU of Florida, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, Farm Worker Association of Florida, Florida AFL-CIO, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Florida Immigrant Youth Network, FOCUS, Hope CommUnity Center, Central Florida LCLAA, National Farm Worker Ministry, Rollins College’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, United We Dream and YAYA.