DENVER (AP) — 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.
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 illegal 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.
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.