Sen. Rick Scott disagrees with DeSantis’ proposal to repeal in-state tuition for ‘dreamers’

Scott signed the measure in 2014 and says ‘it’s a bill that I would sign again today’

By: - February 23, 2023 4:52 pm

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is taking issue with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ legislative proposal announced Thursday that would repeal in-state tuition fee waivers for undocumented immigrant students at colleges and universities, a law that Scott signed back in 2014.

The proposal was one of a package of measures that DeSantis unveiled Thursday regarding undocumented immigration.

Scott signed the bill that was designed to help undocumented students, known as “dreamers,” when he was running for reelection for governor in 2014 against Democrat Charlie Crist – a race he ultimately won by a single percentage point.  He was initially noncommittal about the proposal, but ultimately passed it with the help of former Florida GOP governors Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez, the Tampa Bay Times reported at the time.

But appearing at La Teresita, a Cuban eatery in West Tampa’s Latino district, Scott said he was proud to have signed the legislation and would do it again.

“When I think of that bill, I think about a little two or five-year girl,” he began when asked by the Phoenix about DeSantis’ proposal to repeal the measure.

Florida Republican U.S. Senator Rick Scott at La Teresita Restaurant in Tampa on Feb 23, 2023 (photo credit: Mitch Perry)

“They were brought here. They didn’t come here on their own volition. They live in this country. They went to school. Maybe they’re an honor roll student. Maybe they tried to get Bright Futures (scholarships), with the belief that they can go to one of our great universities in this state. So for them we cannot put this thing out of reach for them to live their dream. That’s not fair. So, it’s a bill that I was proud to sign. I believe in it. I believe that these individuals ought to have the opportunity to live in this country. It’s a bill that I would sign again today.”

This is not the first time such a measure has been introduced in the Florida Legislature to repeal the law granting undocumented students in-state tuition rates. In 2017, then Sarasota Republican House member Greg Steube filed a similar proposal, as did Palm Bay Republican Randy Fine in 2021. Neither made it for a floor vote.

Scott and DeSantis are not considered to be particularly close, but it’s not often that one criticizes the other. Earlier this year DeSantis rejected Scott’s proposal that state and local government officials should return unused or unneeded COVID relief funds.

Scott was appearing in Tampa on the second leg of the official beginning of his reelection campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2024. He began the roundtable discussion with around three dozen local Republicans in attendance by shaking each individual’s hand before sitting down with Central Florida freshman Congressmember Laurel Lee to discuss various issues in Washington.

“I’m going to work my butt off,” he told reporters when asked if he thought he would have an easier time running for reelection next year than in 2018, when he defeated Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Bill Nelson in a race so tight that it required a recount before he was officially declared the winner.

Scott and Lee were also asked about the U.S. support for Ukraine. Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Russian leader Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine in a war that doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.

“I think Putin’s disgusting,” Scott said. “I think it’s despicable what he’s done to innocent women and children. He’s indiscriminately killed a lot of people and he needs to be held accountable. We’ve got to do everything we can to aid Ukraine. It’s got to be lethal aid. Everyone’s gotta show up. Germany’s gotta start showing up. We’ve got to continue to ensure that there’s no fraud, no corruption.”

“We’ve got to continue to support Ukraine,” Lee said. “However, it is an essential part that we are clear on what funds are being allocated for, and that there is accountability and transparency about how they’re being used on the ground, and that is a vital part of ensuring that the American people continue to support the effort.”

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.