Illegal immigrant tuition gets initial Senate OK

DENVER — Colorado Senate Democrats advanced a proposal today to grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, an issue that triggered emotional arguments from Hispanic lawmakers who choked back tears as they urged support of the bill.

Only Democrats supported the bill when it passed on a preliminary vote, with Republicans arguing the proposal provides an incentive for immigrants to come to the U.S. illegally.

Democratic Sen. Angela Giron’s voice quivered as she told lawmakers that she has relatives who are in the country illegally, a circumstance she said perhaps wouldn’t resonate with her colleagues.

“And so I’m thinking, gosh, but I bet they have grandkids, and they have kids,” said Giron, a first-year lawmaker from Pueblo.

This is the fifth time Colorado Democrats have tried to pass a bill giving illegal immigrants the chance to pay lower in-state tuition rates. Senators must vote one more time before the measure goes to the House, where Republicans have a one-person edge.

Sen. Shawn Mitchell, a Republican from Broomfield, said the bill is misguided because illegal immigrant students will not be able to legally get jobs in this country when they graduate from college.

“It’s a false promise. It’s false hope. It’s the politics of gesture and of symbolism,” he said.

Other Republicans questioned the proposal’s legality, saying federal law states that illegal immigrants cannot receive a benefit not given to U.S. citizens.

Eleven states have laws granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, including California, Illinois, Kansas and Texas. Although there have been court challenges, the law has not been overturned in the states that have it.



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