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Colorado solution to the DREAM Act

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On the federal level, the DREAM Act has been introduced and defeated in 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007. In 2009 Democrats attached S.729 to S.3454, the Defense Authorization Bill. The Senate refused to take up the authorization bill. Thus without the debate, the amendment died a not so quiet death.

This move was denounced as a purely political ploy and political observers felt the bill would be introduced in the lame duck session. The Democrats were judged as being “desperate” to pass an amnesty bill before the Republicans took control of the House. As promised, a much expanded Dream Act was introduced late in the year and defeated once again.

A form of the Dream Act has been presented for the 5thtime in the 2011 session of the State Legislature. The bill, S.126 passed the Senate on Feb.18 and will now go to the Finance Committee. If approved there, the bill will continue to the House.

Sponsored by Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver and co-sponsored by first term Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, S.126 is a very simple piece of legislation. Children brought here illegally by their parents are allowed to attend college at in-state tuition rates if they have attended Colorado schools for 3 years and graduated in the state. They are barred from obtaining reduced rates through the Colorado Opportunity Fund, a change from previous bills. Students are required to sign an affidavit with a college stating they are trying to obtain legal residency.

The Denver Post lists out of state tuition costs for 12 credits per semester at Metropolitan State College to be $6,727. In state tuition, assuming the stipend from the College Opportunity Fund would be $1523. Without the stipend, children of illegal parents would pay $2227. Therefore, tuition will be higher than for legal students, but a considerable savings over out of state tuition, which would be prohibitive for most children of illegal parents.

Supporters of the bill say we need to look at this issue as an investment in the future of Colorado and not an expense. This is the reasoning behind presenting the bill in the Education committee. Supporters have great expectations as to the passage of the bill. Success in the Senate is hopeful, but the Republican controlled House is a question. Governor Hickenlooper has not expressed his position on this issue to date.

Once again the State of Colorado has stepped to the plate to solve an issue that is a Federal issue, yet perhaps better served to be addressed by each state for a solution. A solution supported by a majority of voters in each state. A solution that answers the need for each state, and does not require a one-size fits all “comprehensive” Federal solution.

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