Showdown Looms over College's Tuition Cut for Undocumented Students

FILE: Protesters call for immigration reform in 2012.

FILE: Protesters call for immigration reform in 2012.  (AP2012)

In the wake of President Obama's announcement last week that the Department of Homeland Security will no longer seek the deportation of the so-called "Dreamers" --undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children, and who attend college or serve in the military-- a battle is shaping up in Colorado that may have widespread practical consequences for Dreamers. 

The president of Metropolitan State College of Denver (MSCD) is appealing to Latino leaders --and Latino rights groups-- to show their support for his decision to reduce tuition for undocumented immigrants at a special hearing with the Joint Budget Committee of the Colorado legislature on Wednesday. 

Some legislators and the state's Republican Attorney General say that the move is against the law. 

Attorney General John Suthers issued an opinion Tuesday, saying Metro State's unilateral decision is "not supported by governing law," and that must be decided by lawmakers. 

In a letter written particularly to Hispanic leaders in Colorado, Stephen Jordan said that two weeks after the MSCD board voted in favor of cutting tuition starting this August, the state legislature's Joint Budget Committee called a hearing Wednesday to analyze the legality of the measure.

"I ask you, if your busy schedule allows it, to attend the meeting (with the lawmakers)," Jordan said in his letter.

In explaining the college's decision, the president of Metropolitan State College of Denver is appealing to Latinos to back his decision to reduce tuition for undocumented immigrants, a move that some in the Colorado legislature want to undo.

The MSCD initiative creates an intermediate tuition level that is above what Colorado legal residents pay, but substantially below the costs faced by out-of-state or foreign students.

In its session this year, the Colorado legislature defeated the bill that was subsequently used as the basis for the measure recently adopted by MSCD.

In explaining the reason for the tuition cut, Jordan noted that students who benefit from the new tuition category will not receive state or federal financial aid -- they must pay all the other costs associated with taking courses at MSCD and must meet all the same academic requirements to enroll as all other students.

Under the MSCD plan, undocumented students would pay almost $7,200 per year, compared with the $4,300 that legal residents pay and the almost $16,000 that students from outside Colorado pay.

Under Obama's new policy,  laid out early Friday by the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, DHS will defer deportation proceedings and will issue work permits to up to 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and have never committed a crime.

To be eligible, undocumented immigrants must have been brought to the United States before they turned 16, must be younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military.  

Those who qualify for the program can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.  

"This is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, it's not a permanent fix, this is a temporary stop gap measure," Obama said, about the new immigration policy.

This article contains material drawn from The Associated Press and EFE.