Cesiah Guadarrama already knows that her parents are going to be proud of her when she graduates with honors from Westminster High School this …
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Cesiah Guadarrama already knows that her parents are going to be proud of her when she graduates with honors from Westminster High School this spring.
But she can only imagine their reaction if she becomes the first member of her family to attend college.
“They are going to be really, really happy and excited for me,” she said inside the state Capitol building Tuesday.
Guadarrama, 18, has long had aspirations to enter the medical field. But, the hurdle she faces is not being able to afford college.
Because she is an undocumented immigrant — she and her family came to the U.S. when she was just 6 — she currently would be unable to pay in-state tuition rates at Colorado colleges and universities.
But a bill that was introduced by lawmakers Jan. 15 could change all of that.
Senate Bill 33 is being called ASSET — Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow.
The legislation would allow illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements to pay the same tuition at state colleges and universities as other students who are residents.
Guadarrama was one of many ASSET supporters who attended a noontime rally and press conference in the Capitol that afternoon.
After six unsuccessful attempts at trying to pass similar legislation in past sessions, supporters like Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, are confident that, because Democrats control the legislature, this time around will be “lucky No. 7.”
“The air is full of optimism,” Giron said during Tuesday’s event.
The bill, in its current form, would allow undocumented students to attend colleges at the in-state tuition rate, provided they have attended a Colorado high school for at least three years.
Those students would also have to be graduates of a Colorado high school, or at least have obtained a GED inside the state.
Students would also be required to seek legal residency status as soon as possible.
Dorian De Long, a teacher at Adams 12 Five Star Schools, said that it’s been hard for him to see students lose hope of attending college, because of their undocumented status.
“What is that we’re telling our children and students as educators?” he said. “Let’s make this the last year we have to have this discussion.”
The bill has failed in some form or another every time it’s been introduced in the legislature over the last several years.
“The way that the opposition often packages things has made it difficult,” said Rep. Joseph A. Salazar, a Democrat who represents Adams County. “They try to demonize individuals to inflame the situation.”
That may not entirely be the case the seventh time.
Republicans could see themselves as having an electoral math problem with Latinos, both in Colorado and nationwide.
So, there may be more bipartisan support for ASSET this time around.
But that doesn’t mean that Republican lawmakers don’t have their concerns. Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, questioned whether providing in-state tuition for undocumented students would be akin to giving them “false hope,” considering that their illegal status may hinder their ability from paying back student loans if they’re not able to legally find work after college.
DelGrosso also said that he would prefer the federal government to step forward with comprehensive immigration reform, rather than try “patchwork” ways of solving problems in the state.
Still, DelGrosso, who had not yet seen the legislation a few hours after its introduction, did not say how he ultimately would end up voting on the bill.
And he acknowledged the “legitimate argument” that supporters of ASSET make.
“Do you punish the kids for the sins of their parents?” he said.
As for Guadarrama, she’s optimistic this time around.
“I’m excited because of the fact that it’s right in time for when I graduate,” she said.
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