BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - For Brayan Vazquez, the day starts early. His dad drops him off at the Boynton Beach Tri-Rail station just after 7 a.m. so he can make the long commute to go to school in Miami.
Vazquez wants to become a scientist. And the 19-year-old figures his twice a week, 110-mile round trip on Tri-rail has him on the right track.
There is plenty of time on his long commute to watch the world go by and reflect on the journey that brought him here from his native Mexico.
“I came here when I was 11 years old. My parents brought me here in search of a better life,” said Vasquez.
Vazquez has been searching and striving ever since. He graduated from Olympic Heights High School in Boca Raton last year.
“I graduated with honors,” said Vasquez.
The Tri-Rail trip followed by a bus ride now opens a door onto a new world that might otherwise be shut. His destination is Miami-Dade College. It is one of only two schools in South Florida—Florida International is the other -- that allow an undocumented student, like Vazquez, to pay in-state tuition.
“I want to learn, you know. I want to teach,” said Vazquez.
Vazquez won his tuition waiver under a program called-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Bottom line--four classes that cost him just under $1400 at Miami Dade college would cost him at least $4800 at a comparable school that does not offer the tuition waiver.
“That is the only thing I can afford, a little bit of classes, 4 classes a semester, instead of just one class if I were to attend Palm Beach State College or Florida Atlantic, which are closer to my house,” said Vazquez.
The Florida Legislature is close to approving a plan that would allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition if they meet certain criteria. Governor Rick Scott has indicated he'd sign it into law with certain provisions.
Vazquez is a story of hope to his family, and a story of unfairness to some others
"If there is a student in Alabama who wants to go to college in Florida he can’t go unless he pays the out of state rate, but the Florida Legislature says we can give reduced rates to foreign nationals here illegally and that is unpatriotic and unfair to Americans,” said David Caulkett.
Floridians for Immigration Enforcement say students, like Vasquez, may squeeze out an equally worthy American Student, a legal U.S. Citizen.
“It's just going to make it more difficult for Florida families to get their legal students into schools,” said Caulkett.
And Caulkett claims politicians supporting the idea are just looking for votes in this election year.
“This is very clearly a demographic pandering to a minority,” said Caulkett.
Miami Dade College officials don't see it that way. They look at undocumented students like Vazquez and see potential that could be wasted for young people who had no say in how they got to the U.S.
""We feel this is important. To deny someone an education because of their status is not something we believe in,” said Rene Garcia, Enrollment Director at Miami Dade College.
Vazquez is undaunted, fighting he says for his dream, no matter the odds or the opposition.
“I want my sister to say it is possible. It may be hard. But it is possible. So i do it for them. I do it for 11 million undocumented immigrants. I do it for the ones who have been deported,” said Vazquez.
A young man trying to emerge from the shadow cast by the legal status he did not choose, yearning for the bright possibilities of tomorrow.