Almost all of us — unless you are Native American — had ancestors who immigrated to this continent, some of us not by choice. But the majority who came freely did so with the hope for a better life for their children and grandchildren. That is the foundation of America.
The debate about immigration laws has raged for decades while many immigrants — who are our neighbors, who work in area businesses and are members of our churches — have been stuck in the cycle of poverty. We can argue until we are blue in the face about whether the parents of these children should be punished for their choice of entering the U.S. illegally, but in the meantime, younger generations in Colorado have little, if any, hope for continuing their education beyond high school.
While I was in the state legislature, I voted in favor of bilingual education and later opposed a statewide English-only proposal. Undocumented students are part of our economy, and educating them — and not branding them for speaking other languages — creates an environment for them to be contributing members of our society.
Now, the state legislature has an opportunity to widen that path of education. Senate Bill 15 creates a category of tuition higher than in-state tuition but lower than out-of-state tuition. Under this plan, an undocumented student would pay $11,012 for 30 hours of credit at the University of Colorado Boulder, compared to $9,152 for in-state tuition and $30,330 for out-of-state tuition.
This bill would be the passport to higher education for hundreds, if not thousands, of young adults statewide. Colorado high school students who now see no hope of college because of the financial burden could instead see options. Young adults stuck in minimum-wage jobs could be motivated to go back to school and pursue careers that seemed impossible.
I kept some of the "fan" mail I received during my nearly 30 years in elected offices from residents who disagreed with my opinions. I know that I probably will receive some letters telling me to go back to Africa or better yet to Mexico, since it is closer. Well, I've been to both, and like these undocumented students, Colorado is my home. I truly believe that access to education for all of our children will not only benefit them personally but also benefit everyone who lives here.
Wellington Webb was Denver's mayor from 1991-2003.