Colorado lower tuition for undocumented immigrants gains support

DENVER – A proposal to give children originally brought to the U.S. Illegally in-state tuition rates is back, again, at the Colorado State Capitol.

State lawmakers who support the idea will try this year for the seventh time to pass what they call the “ASSET” bill, which would give a tuition break to students in that situation.

This year, the plan has a very good chance of passing, thanks to a political power shift in the state capitol.

Each time the proposal comes up, affected immigrant students pour their hearts out. They graduate from high schools in Colorado and want to go to college.

“And soon we face the price of out-of-state tuition,” said Ana Calderon, who recently graduated from high school. “With broken hearts, we have to put our dreams on hold. We are tired of waiting.”

The ASSET bill died in the House Finance Committee last April on party lines. Six Democrats voted yes and seven Republicans voted no.

Frustrated, officials at Metro State University took matters into their own hands. In a controversial move, the University created a special type of tuition for some immigrants, which is a little higher than the in-state price, but much lower than tuition for out-of-state students.

This year, with Democrats in control of both houses of the state legislature, supporters of the ASSET bill plan to give qualifying immigrants the exact same tuition as in-state students.

There is still a lot of opposition within the Republican minority, but some in the GOP are re-thinking their strategy on the issue.

“I don’t know if the argument [against ASSET] will be quite as strong this year as in the past,” Rep. Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland) said. “But the bill is different this year than what we’ve seen in the past.”

Republicans still have serious concerns about the price tag of giving a tuition break to thousands of people. Without comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, they also worry these students may not be legally employable when they graduate.

But DelGrosso does understand the other side of the issue.

“Do you punish the kids for the sins of the parents?” asked DelGrosso. “That is a legitimate argument.”

Republicans know they’ll need more support from Latinos and other minorities in future elections, says KUSA political expert Andrew Romanoff, a Democrat.

“If [Republicans] intend to become or remain in some quarters a majority party, what they’re doing ain’t working,” Romanoff said.

His Republican counterpart Ryan Frazier agrees.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Frazier said.

Frazier predicts you may be surprised at how many Republicans vote for the bill this time.

If it does pass, opponents of the tuition break worry it will encourage people to ignore our country’s immigration laws.

That’s one reason both sides want Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, though both sides want different things in that debate.

It’s unclear whether the U.S. Congress will make a serious effort to pass immigration laws this year.

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