Latino groups lobby for in-state tuition in Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” Latino groups supporting a proposal to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition took their campaign to the state Capitol on Monday, lobbying lawmakers on both sides of the issue.
About 150 people rallied on the West steps before heading inside the Capitol to find their assigned lawmakers and talk to them about bill, which is awaiting a vote in the Senate. The group of citizen lobbyists included mothers, high school students and activists.
Among them was Yamili, an 18-year-old high school student from Denver who said she doesn’t qualify for in-state tuition because she came to the United States illegally with her parents about 10 years ago from Mexico. Yamili, who didn’t give her last name because of her immigration status, said she has been accepted to private Regis University with a $12,000 scholarship but is applying for other scholarships to help her pay the tuition, which will be about $30,000 next year.
She said her family first lived in a house with 15 other people in Colorado before moving to their own apartment and then a house. She sees college as the next step to the better life her parents came here for.
“That is what has motivated me,” said Yamili, who would like study the humanities or international affairs and maybe work for the United Nations.
She led about a dozen people, many of them mothers, to meet with Rep. Jerry Frangas, D-Denver, outside the House chamber, where members were locked in a long debate over the Electoral College. They talked to Frangas, who supports the bill, in both English and Spanish.
One of the women in the group, Maria Medellin, later explained through an interpreter that while her two sons were born in the United States, her older stepson was not and returned to Mexico to enroll in a university there. She said she is worried that children who can’t afford college will get discouraged and might get into trouble.
“This is a right. Education is a right,” she said.
Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, was also lobbied by bill supporters and said he still opposes it.
King said it gives false hope to illegal immigrants because they still will have trouble finding jobs once graduating from college because they’re not citizens.
Backers of the bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Chris Romer and Rep. Joe Miklosi, have been urging members to call lawmakers to show their support and have also visited churches asking members to send letters of support. But lawmakers say supporters have been outnumbered by opponents, who have bombarded them with e-mails and calls.
The Senate bounced the bill back to the appropriations committee last week because opponents wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t cost the state any money.
Fiscal analysts don’t expect it to because students who are here illegally wouldn’t get the normal state subsidy like other Colorado students and would have to pay about $2,700 extra a year. That would still be much less than paying out-of-state tuition rates.