Written by Dominic Dezzutti

The Colorado legislature is once again looking at a way to provide lower than out-of-state tuition rates to children of illegal immigrants. This new version of the ASSET bill has new qualifications and authors have removed many of the hurdles to its passage in past attempts.

The issue is still somewhat controversial because there are many people who believe that no benefit of any kind should be made available for any illegal immigrant. That contingent is still strong in Colorado, but not nearly as powerful as it was in years past.

But as it attempted to do before, the ASSET program would give a benefit to a group of illegal immigrants that did not make the decision to come to this country on their own. These children were brought to this country at a very young age, and since their arrival, these children have attended Colorado public schools and have excelled.

The ASSET program is not a magnet benefit for future immigrants, nor is it somehow allowing immigrants to assimilate into our country without speaking English. This program simply attempts to grow the amount of paying students at Colorado’s state colleges and universities.

The details of the bill can and will be debated thoroughly. However, beyond the details, I think that Republican legislators have a unique opportunity to give themselves a leg up in the 2012 election by helping to pass this version of the ASSET bill.

National GOP leaders have given lip service to the idea of attracting votes from the Hispanic community. However, few of them have moved to make any serious policy changes that can actually benefit the youth within that community.

But Legislative Republicans can use this bill as an opportunity to show the Colorado Hispanic community that common ground can be found on these issues and that the GOP won’t stand in the way of common sense progress. Or they can use this opportunity to show the Hispanic community in Colorado that no compromise can ever happen, even for small benefits that help a group of people who had little or no influence on the decision to come to America.

This version of the ASSET bill provides a way to assist youth that have proven that they want to become productive and successful members of American society. This version is also fair to legal residents of Colorado, since those residents would still pay less than students would through ASSET and ASSET students would not be eligible for state aid.

This version of the program simply rewards students who are performing well in Colorado schools with the opportunity to pay a bit more than their legal resident counterparts to become paying customers of Colorado’s higher ed institutions.

Both of these rationales would make sense to independent voters and ignoring these rationales would give Democrats a powerful weapon to bludgeon the GOP with in the fall.

Looking from the outside, it seems like an easy, pragmatic and strategically sound decision. However, pragmatism is never assured in politics. Sometimes principles will remain, despite how many can benefit from the concept.

If Colorado Republicans are looking to grow their lead in the State House, or even get close to taking back the State Senate, they will need to start looking pragmatically at opportunities like this one.

Or they can ignore it and watch pragmatic Democrats win both in 2012. It’s their call.
About The Blogger

– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.


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