Illegal Alien Tuition Discount Faces Uncertain Future in House

February 15, 2012
By

DENVER, CO – Desperately seeking Republican House votes for the latest bill to provide discounted tuition rates to illegal alien students, Senate Democrats postponed the third reading and passage of Senate Bill 15 until Feb. 20.

“I’m sure hoping it goes to the Education Committee because they have the expertise,” said Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), cosponsor of SB 15.  Another factor is that Education Committee chair Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) supports SB 15.

Assistant House Majority Leader Mark Waller and several Republican legislators speculated that the bill will more likely be assigned to the House Judiciary or the State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee.

Education committee member Rep. Ken Summers said he will likely vote against SB 15 because it’s too broad in scope in allowing students who have only attended high school in Colorado for three years and illegal immigration issues remain unresolved.

“Even if these students attend college here, they can’t work here legally without getting citizenship or going underground to falsify Social Security numbers,” said Summers. “Unfortunately in this broken system, we don’t have solutions to the core problem right now.”

The Lakewood Republican legislator said illegal alien students have alternative options to pursue higher education in other states and that is not an uncommon practice for all high school students in Colorado.

“It will definitely get a fair hearing in the State (Veterans and Military) Affairs committee or the Judiciary committee,” said Waller, who sits on both committees. “It won’t be sent to the Education committee.”

Education committee member Rep. Ken Summers said he will likely vote against SB 15 because it’s too broad in scope in allowing students who have only attended high school inColoradofor three years and illegal immigration issues remain unresolved.

“Even if these students attend college here, they can’t work here legally without getting citizenship or going underground to falsify Social Security numbers,” said Summers. “Unfortunately in this broken system, we don’t have solutions to the core problem right now.”

Critics of the bill have panned the proposal to grant the special benefit to illegal aliens as yet another taxpayer provided benefit to people in the country illegally, making Colorado a “magnet” for additional illegal immigration. They also noted that the proposal, as written, would conflict directly with federal law – which stipulates that any state providing a discounted tuition rate to illegal aliens must provide the same discount to all prospective U.S. citizen students, regardless of their state of residence, potentially imposing unforeseen new costs on state taxpayers.

The operative section of that 1996 law, 8 USC 1623, reads, which was approved by a GOP-controlled Congress and signed into law by then-President Clinton reads:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.

The House committee hearing will echo the Senate’s emotionally-charged testimony for and against the bill to set a new illegal alien tuition rate marginally higher than the rate for a legal in-state student, and nearly 30 percent less than the estimated $30,000 a year paid by an out-of-state student.

Bill cosponsor Senator Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) said state colleges and universities would benefit from the additional tuition revenue the proposal would provide, but Republican opponents have questioned that assertion.

“You amended the bill with some very creative bookkeeping,” said Sen. Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley), “Don’t try to make some sort of fuzzy argument that we’re going to make money.”

Renfroe was among Republican senators who argued that the in-state tuition is a benefit to taxpaying residents and questioned the accuracy of the bill’s neutral fiscal impact statement.

“If you add a thousand students to the system, you are going to have to pay for it,” declared Renfroe. “Make no mistake about this – the people are going to pay for the rate.”

Senator Pat Steadman (D-Denver) countered that it’s unfair to deny affordable higher education tuition to illegal aliens who cannot afford the higher out-of-state tuition rate paid by U.S. citizen students from other states and foreign students holding valid visas.

Senator Steve King (R-Grand Junction) raised the issue of placing illegal alien students in a Catch 22 situation. According to the bill, illegal alien students would be eligible for the tuition break if they sign an affidavit promising to apply for legal citizenship. That, he said, puts these students at risk of being deported by the federal government and waiting for citizenship applications to be processed for possibly 10 years.  If the students finished college before applying for citizenship, King warned that they would need a Social Security number and documentation to get a job, and that dilemma could force them to commit a crime.

“We need to talk about what’s legal. What are the barriers, the hurdles these kids face,” said King. “The biggest one is the federal government. If we want these students to be legally successful, let’s not lead them down the road of illegal behavior.”

“It is a bigger hurdle when we deal with a federal government and on this issue it is unbelievably dysfunctional,” declared King.

Senator Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) asserted that Colorado has a shortage of college-educated students to meet the demands of the marketplace. The cost of granting a lower tuition rate to illegal alien students, Heath said, is small compared to the tax revenue generated by one student earning more than a million dollars over a lifetime of working in Colorado.

“Yes, this can be an emotional bill, but just look at it in dollars and cents,” implored Heath. “From an economic standpoint, this bill makes common sense.”

Renfroe disagreed with Heath’s assessment of the state’s pitiful number of college educated workers.

“We’re not in as bad a shape that you portrayed,” declared Renfroe, citing a survey that ranked the number of college-educated citizens in the United States. “We’re third in degree holders.”

Republican Senators argued that federal immigration problems need to be remedied before Colorado passes a bill to create a tuition break for illegal aliens. Democrats countered that it is a first step solution that could spur federal immigration reform.

“The Democrats argue that it’s an economic bill. I don’t see that,” said Rep. Waller, R-Colorado Springs, “How do you tax the earnings of someone who is here illegally? What company would hire illegals?”

Waller also said Heath’s argument that these students will stay in Colorado over a lifetime is pie in the sky. He said there is no such guarantee – even with legal in-state tuition payers.

Summers agreed with Waller, and questioned the statement that Colorado’s higher education institutions need additional money from more enrollments.

“Higher education facilities are experiencing an all time high enrollment now. In fact they’re turning people away because they can’t accommodate them.”

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

3 Responses to Illegal Alien Tuition Discount Faces Uncertain Future in House

  1. Jim
    February 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    This is another pack of lies by democrats who only want to give benefits to illegals to encourage them to vote fraudulently in our election. There was an estimate that 5000 illegals voted in the 2010 election and that is what put Michael Bennet over the top to win the senate. This has been defeated 5 times and democrats continue to deny the will of the people of Colorado. None of their arguments have ever held water. Why doesn’t the democratic party pay the illegals tuition if they are so concerned about this?

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