ASSET to break ‘crippling bonds’ of poverty, say supporters
By Nissa LaPoint
Photo by James Baca/DCR
A switch in position among state legislators paved the way for the long-awaited passage of a bill allowing illegal immigrant students to pay lower college tuition rates.
The state House and Senate passed Senate Bill 33—known as the ASSET bill—that would give students who graduate from a Colorado high school the ability to attend college at an in-state rate regardless of their immigration status.
Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign it.
Republicans who opposed previous versions of the bill proposed over the last 10 years showed a change of heart this session by voting to support a brighter future for immigrants seeking an education.
Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, who said he never had a chance to vote on the bill, showed his support this session because of his Catholic faith.
“Most of it is my faith and understanding the dignity of the individual. In God’s eyes we’re all created equal,” he said. “Through my own personal experience as well, growing up around a lot of immigrants and immigrant children, I know how important education and succeeding in life is to them.”
Some in his party objected to the bill citing concerns about the fiscal impact and the federal law on illegal immigrants. He said the cost of the bill is not significant and will yield a great benefit to society—helping future leaders develop their maximum potential.
“I’m also hopeful the federal government will figure out some compromise in the next two to four years that will make this a moot point,” he added.
The Colorado Catholic Conference and the state’s three Catholic Charities organizations urged support for the bill that would uphold the inherent dignity of persons and provide a powerful antidote to poverty.
“We already recognize the importance of educating the undocumented among us, and we provide them with a public school education,” announced Catholic Charities of Denver, Pueblo and Central Colorado in a statement. “Most important, these brothers and sisters are human beings worthy of treatment in keeping with their inherent human dignity. … Rather than lock these young adults into cycles of poverty that will ultimately cost the community so much, we have an opportunity to help break those crippling bonds through education and the prospects that come with it.”
Senators Greg Brophy, R-Wray; Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs; and Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, voted for the bill. Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, also voted for the bill.
If it is signed by the governor, the bill will enable students to attend public colleges and universities at a lower tuition rate. Currently, students in the country must pay non-resident rates which can reach two to three times higher than the in-state rate.