Immigrant Tuition Bill Dies in House

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1min 31sec

An effort to lower college tuition for undocumented immigrant students is over at the state legislature, at least for this year. The Republican-controlled House Finance Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to kill the bill. Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee reports that supporters are already vowing to bring it back next year.

The following is a transcript of Megan Verlee's report:

Reporter Megan Verlee: Backers of the bill tried to convince the committee that making it easier for undocumented students to attend college in Colorado would benefit the state’s economy. Bill Vidal, head of Denver’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, pointed out the state is already educating these students through high school.

Bill Vidal: Makes good sense, I think, to allow these kids to go to college to have a return on the investment that we’ve already made. I also say from the business perspective how important it is to have an educated workforce.

Reporter: Right now, illegal immigrants pay out-of-state tuition at Colorado colleges. The bill would have created an intermediate rate, higher than in-state tuition but less than they’re paying now. Republican Representative Kathleen Conti complained, that would disregard federal immigration policies.

Kathleen Conti: Tell me, how is it you justify that economic benefit trumps the law?

Reporter: Other Republicans on the panel, like Representative Chris Holbert, argued a better strategy would be to work for comprehensive immigration reform.

Chris Holbert: We have people who are effectively stuck without a country, without a nationality. We must find a way to address that. But, I can’t support this bill. The people I represent simply would not accept that.

Reporter: In the end, the committee voted 6-5 to kill the bill. Afterwards, one of the bill's sponsors, Senator Angela Giron, promised the young people who’d come for the hearing that she’d bring the proposal back next year.

Angela Giron: I feel like we let you all down, but we’re not giving up. And you’re the ones who give us all the strength to continue, and we’re going to fight this.

Reporter: This is the sixth time in recent years Democratic lawmakers have tried to reduce tuition for undocumented immigrant students.

[Photo: CPR/MVerlee]