Senate OKs in-state immigrant tuition
DENVER — Democratic senators had to hold back applause on the floor of the Colorado Senate on Monday as they gave final approval to a measure to grant in-state tuition to undocumented students.
Seconds after Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, banged his gavel to mark officially that SB33 had passed, Democratic senators had to stifle their clapping, which is not allowed under legislative rules.
Ten years in the making, the controversial idea was first introduced during the 2003 session. Since then, 13 states, including Utah and Texas, have approved the idea.
It now heads to the Colorado House, where it is expected to pass.
“This is a bill that will light up cellphones in all high school classes in the state of Colorado,” said Sen. Michael Johnston, a Denver Democrat who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo. “There are kids right now in class, working on homework, working through assignments who are absolutely paying attention to this debate and will know the moment this bill passes.”
And pass it did, on a bipartisan 23–12 vote, which included first-time votes from the other side of the aisle.
Although three Republicans supported it — Sens. Greg Brophy of Wray, Owen Hill of Colorado Springs and Larry Crowder of Alamosa — the remaining dozen GOP senators opposed it largely on grounds that it was part of a federal debate over immigration that best should be handled by Congress.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said it was a small step toward amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“I do believe the federal government needs to fix the problem of developing reasonable policies for immigration so that those people who personally and, for our country, need to be here can come here and be a part of this culture and this nation,” Lundberg said. “When we start turning a blind eye to what the law says ... it doesn’t work in the long run.”
Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, agreed, saying afterward he doesn’t understand why the Democratic Party, when it held a majority in Congress during President Barack Obama’s first two years in office, didn’t deal with it federally when they had the chance.
“Of all of the things that you could point to with this administration as faults, problems, deficiencies, is not dealing with the immigration issue when they had the opportunity to do that, especially for these kids,” King said. “If you have all the power, unless you’re just afraid, why not solve the problem? That lacks courage.”
Democrats, however, called that a specious argument, saying Republicans controlled the U.S. House and Senate from 2003 to 2007 when Republican George W. Bush was president, and the GOP didn’t deal with immigration reform then, either.