FIU boasts that its student body "reflects the vibrant diversity of South Florida." But students like Wendy Ruiz need not apply.
Ruiz, an honor student at Miami Dade College, tried to fill out the online application last year but got stuck on a question about her parents, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court this week. Ruiz is a U.S. citizen - she was born in Miami and has lived here all her life. But her parents are undocumented immigrants. FIU's online application required her to show that her parents were legal residents.
"When Wendy was unable to provide this information, FIU's application
did not permit her to proceed, and she was therefore unable to enroll in
the university," the suit contends.
Wendy is one of five Florida residents who sued the state, challenging
the constitutionality of a Florida Board of Education policy that forces
them to pay out-of-state tuition because their parents are undocumented
immigrants. All five are citizens, born in the United States. The state
considers them residents when it comes to their drivers' licenses and
voter registrations, but denies them that when it's time to collect
their tuition money.
Ruiz and one of the other litigants are attending Miami Dade College,
and paying the out-of-state tuition, which is three times what Florida
residents pay. The other three say the higher tuition made it impossible
for them to go college at all.
"I hope and pray they win this one," said Eduardo Padron, president of
Miami Dade College and a fierce advocate for the DREAM Act.
FIU did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The university
considers students who are in this country illegally international
students, allowing them to apply and attend. FIU president Mark
Rosenberg has joined Padron in urging Congress to approve the Dream Act
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so that he can charge those students in-state tuition, calling education
"the key that unlocks the door to the American dream." Wendy would also
like a key, please.