Colo. House committee kills bill granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants

Tim Hoover|The Denver Post

Could the defeat of this bill signal the end for Colorado's designation as a sanctuary state?

DENVER — A bill to grant illegal immigrants in-state tuition died Monday evening at the hands of Republicans in a House committee.

Supporters of Senate Bill 126 were encouraged after the bill had passed the Democratic-led Senate last week on a 20-15 party line vote. Four Senate Democrats who had voted against a similar bill in 2009 switched their votes to make that happen.

Proponents hoped the bill would have a shot in the Republican-led House — which has a 33-32 split — and the measure probably stood its best chance by being assigned to the House Education Committee, a panel that includes its moderate Republican chairman, Tom Massey of Poncha Springs, and the only Hispanic Republican in the House, Rep. Robert Ramirez of Westminster.

But the bill died on a 7-6 vote, with all Republicans opposing it despite arguments that children brought to America illegally at a young age should not be punished for their parents’ sins or that the bill would create educated workers for the future.

“In the end this is about workforce development,” said Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver, who co-sponsored the bill in the House with Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver.

Ramirez, whose father immigrated legally to the United States from Mexico in the 1960s, said he agonized over the vote.

“It saddens me no matter how I vote,” Ramirez said.

On the one hand, he said, he did not want to create an underclass of uneducated people, but on the other, he did not want to send the wrong message.

“Yeah, it’s the parents of some of these children that violated the law,” Ramirez said, adding, though, “Are we teaching a new genreation of our country that it’s OK to violate the law? That scares me.”

He paused for several seconds before voting no on the bill.

Under the legislation, students who have attended a Colorado high school for at least three years and graduated would have been eligible to receive an “unsubsidized” in-state tuition rate at public colleges and universities. That is, they would have paid the in-state tuition rate but would not have gotten something called the Colorado Opportunity Fund scholarship, basically a direct subsidy provided to every student.

For example, a Colorado student receiving in-state tuition at the University of Colorado at Boulder would normally pay $8,508 in tuition, while an out-of-state student would pay $28,619. Under the bill, an illegal immigrant qualifying for the in-state rate still would have paid $10,368 without the College Opportunity Fund subsidy.

The bill also would have required qualifying students to sign an affidavit stating they had applied for lawful status to be in the United States.

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