Roles switched in immigrant tuition

Republicans take stance Democrats took in '06

DENVER — Roles were reversed in the Colorado House on Tuesday.

Instead of Democratic lawmakers insisting that illegal immigration was something best handled by the federal government, as they did during a 2006 special legislative session on the subject, Republicans were pushing that argument.

GOP legislators told Democrats who control the 65-member House that a bill to extend in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants isn’t something the state should be addressing.

Instead, Congress should do something about immigration reform that not only deals with people coming to this country illegally to find work, but also what to do with the children they bring with them.

Republicans said President Barack Obama’s recent executive order deferring any deportation action against undocumented students attending colleges or universities in the nation is only a temporary solution that offers a false promise.

“If these kids were to go to college today, by the time they’ve graduated, President Obama will not be president anymore,” Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, said moments before the House gave initial approval to a bill that would extend in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. “This (executive order) could change. It’s not law. That goes to show that we need comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level so that there actually is a pathway to citizenship for these young students.”

Democratic lawmakers made similar arguments during the middle of the last decade when Republicans pushed for tough state laws dealing with keeping illegal immigrants out of Colorado, including one that required county jails to report illegal immigrants they have in custody to federal authorities.

The tuition bill is designed for those undocumented students who are in the state at no fault of their own. To qualify, they must have graduated from a Colorado high school after spending at least three years here, get admitted to a Colorado college and file an affidavit stating their intent to seek legal residency status.

The measure, SB33, has already cleared the Colorado Senate and requires a final House vote, which could come as early as today, before it heads to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has indicated he will sign it.

Democrats said the measure not only is the right thing to do for the students, but the state as well.

Better educated residents mean fewer legal and social problems, and less taxpayer expense in dealing with them, they said.

At the same time, better educated people get higher paying jobs and pay more in taxes, said Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.

“Supporting young people willing to engage in the American promise ensures social stability, economic promise for our state and a richer public and cultural life,” Duran said. “Some of these undocumented students may have a cure for cancer or be the next Steve Jobs. Their stories are the stories of the United States and the stories of the foundation of this country.”



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