Nathaly Salgado began her first year as a University of Florida business student in August.
She came t0 Florida from Ecuador when she was 3 years old because her parents were seeking medical care for her mentally ill sister. Through provisions of a 2014 bill, Salgado has qualified for in-state tuition rates, which are more than four times less at UF than out-of-state rates.
But a bill filed Wednesday by newly elected state Sen. Greg Steube (R-Bradenton) would, if passed, reverse the legislation that allows students like Salgado to qualify for in-state rates.
Calls to Steube by WUFT News seeking comment weren’t immediately returned.
The bill — Florida Senate Bill 82 — came days after UF President Kent Fuchs joined hundreds of other university presidents in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a federal immigration policy that shields people who were brought to the United States as minors from deportation.
Salgado said she is grateful for existing DACA opportunities as well as the current Florida law because without it, she could not afford to attend UF, where out-of-state tuition totals $28,658 for two 15-credit-hour semesters.
“I didn’t know what DACA was, and for me, it was such a wake-up call,” she said. “I didn’t know that I was different from everybody else. But once we got the paper that DACA was approved, it was just like this burden was off my chest, and I felt like I could be someone normal.
“I could have a driver’s license. I could go to work. It was such a relief.”
UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said in-state tuition for DACA students is embraced at UF and at the state level.
“The Florida state university system and the University of Florida have supported what’s known as DACA students over the years,” she said.
Diana Moreno, program coordinator of UF’s Hispanic-Latino Affairs, was involved in the support and eventual passing of the 2014 bill. She said called the actions being taken to repeal it “a disgrace.”
“This bill really has benefitted so many different kinds of people who, by any measure, are Florida residents,” she said. “They have grown up in this country, this state. They have gone through the public education system.
Salgado said she believes the ideas behind Steube’s bill come from a misconception that undocumented immigrants are taking advantage of taxpayer money.
“Especially those of us who have DACA, we really had no control over that decision” to come to the U.S., she said. “So to be punished for something we were not a part of, when we basically consider ourselves Americans for our whole lives – I think people really need to consider that when they’re trying to make laws to isolate us from the rest of the population.”