House panel kills immigrant tuition bill

Supporters vow to return next year

DENVER – House Republicans killed a bill to give in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants Wednesday evening, just two days after the bill picked up its first-ever GOP vote.

The House Finance Committee killed Senate Bill 15 on a 7-6, party-line vote.

The bill had narrowly survived the House Education Committee on Monday night thanks to the panel’s Republican chairman, Rep. Tom Massey of Poncha Springs, who sided with Democrats in favor of the bill.

A few dozen young supporters from the group Padres y Jovenes Unidos watched the vote silently. In the hallway outside, a few of them hugged or wept.

The bill would have given in-state tuition to children who crossed the border illegally with their parents, as long as they attended a Colorado high school for at least three years and graduated, and as long as they applied for legal status in the United States. They would not have gotten the $1,800 stipend the state gives to all other college students.

Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, rejected supporters’ arguments that voting against the bill denied children opportunity.

“In many cases, these kids have already had 12 years of education benefits at the taxpayers’ expense, and, may I say it, their feet on the ground in a nation where they can do more with a high school diploma than any other nation on Earth,” Conti said.

Several Republicans said that even if kids without citizenship papers could afford college, they couldn’t work legally when they graduate.

The sponsor, Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, said no one is guaranteed a job after graduation, especially in this economy.

“I do not want to be on the side of history that punishes the child for sins committed by their parents because they sought the American dream,” Williams said.

Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said he sympathized with students who effectively are without a country, but his constituents demand that the federal government secure the border with Mexico first.

“I can’t support this bill. The people I represent just simply would not accept that,” Holbert said.

Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, joined other supporters in saying they would try again next year.

“Opportunity knows no bounds, and it is a matter of not if, but when,” Pabon said.

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