Ritter backs illegal immigrant in-state tuition
DENVER Gov. Bill Ritter supports a bill in the Legislature that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition, and he would sign it into law if it’s passed.Ritter’s office released a statement laying out his position on the bill Friday after an education group pushing for passage of the bill, Padres & Jovenes Unidos, circulated the statement to its members.”As Governor, I have long supported tuition equity as a matter of principle and policy a policy that is supported by prominent Colorado business leaders and is already in place in a number of other states. For me, this is about building a talented and well-educated workforce and strengthening our economy,” Ritter said in the statement.The state Senate began debating the measure (Senate Bill 170) on Friday but then decided to send the bill to the appropriations committee.Under legislative rules, the committee is supposed to review bills that either cost or save money for the state.Depending on how many students take advantage of the idea, fiscal analysts expect the state to take in between $165,300 and $661,000 in new tuition money. That money in turn would be used to pay for the students’ education. Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, said it right now appeared the state would break even, but he wanted the appropriations committee to review it to make sure.If the committee backs the bill, it will end up back on the Senate floor for debate. Friday’s brief debate suggested it would be an emotional one.Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, objected to children brought to this country by their parents being labeled as illegal immigrants. He said it’s not possible for a child to have the intent to break the law.”Let’s stand up to the forces of fear and offer hope, because at the end of the day when you offer people hopeless choices, they do hopeless things,” he said.Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, said the bill violates a federal law that bars states from offering illegal immigrants any benefits that aren’t offered to citizens from other states.”This is a legal issue. You’re trying to rephrase it as a hope issue,” Kopp said.Despite the federal law, 10 states have passed laws allowing illegal immigrant students to pay in-state tuition. Both sides point to different court cases to back their arguments.Kopp said a challenge to California’s in-state tuition law is working its way through the state court system and may eventually end up in federal court. Meanwhile, Ritter points to the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver, which refused to overturn a lower court decision upholding Kansas’ in-state tuition law.
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