DENVER- The Colorado House passed a proposal Friday allowing students who entered the U.S. illegally to pay lower college tuition, sending the bill to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is expected to sign it.

Three Republicans joined with all of the chamber's Democrats in voting for the bill.

"Please be on the right side of history because this is not about false hope," Rep. Angela Williams, a Democrat from Denver, told her colleagues.

The bill would allow students who graduate from Colorado high schools to attend college at the in-state rate, regardless of their immigration status. Currently, students in the country illegally must pay nonresident tuition rate, which can be more than three times higher than the in-state rate.

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 22: State Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, speaks in the Colorado Senate chamber at the State Capitol in favor of Senate Bill 33,
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 22: State Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, speaks in the Colorado Senate chamber at the State Capitol in favor of Senate Bill 33, which would allow the children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition, on February 22, 2013, in Denver, Colorado. The bill passed second reading on Friday on a voice vote and is expected to pass to the House. (Photo by Daniel Petty/The Denver Post) (Daniel Petty)

Republicans argued that a federal immigration overhaul needs to happen first.

Similar bills have been debated in Colorado for a decade, with both parties voting to defeat the proposals.

"This is history, you know?" said Victor Galvan, 22, a student at Metropolitan State University of Denver who was hugging other students outside the House chamber in celebration. "For 10 long years we fought."

At least 13 other states have passed laws to allow undocumented immigrants to attend college at in-state rates, including conservative strongholds such as Texas and Utah.

In Colorado in recent years, bills have cleared the Democratic-led Senate but have stalled in the House, where Republicans held the majority. Democrats now control both chambers.


Advertisement

Most in the GOP still opposed the tuition measure. But during debates they took pains to argue they aren't anti-Latino, but critical of an overall immigration system that is flawed.


Invited students from Yuma and Pueblo, Colo., listen to a Colorado Legislature debate on a bill which would grant in-state tuition to undocumented
Invited students from Yuma and Pueblo, Colo., listen to a Colorado Legislature debate on a bill which would grant in-state tuition to undocumented students, inside the State Capitol, in Denver, Tuesday March 5, 2013. (Brennan Linsley/AP)