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GOP chairman ‘disappointed’ party killed undocumented tuition bill

ryan call

DENVER — Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call, who is now focused on improving the party’s standing with Latino voters ahead of the November election, told FOX31 Denver Friday that he’s disappointed that House Republicans this week killed a measure that would have made college more affordable for undocumented students who qualify.

Senate Bill 15, dubbed “Colorado ASSET” by sponsors, died Wednesday before the House Finance Committee when all seven Republicans who form a majority on the panel held firm and voted against it.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in the vote,” Call told FOX31 Denver. “I am. It does make it more difficult for Republicans to talk about issues that are important to the Hispanic community when a bill like that can’t get through the legislature.”

After failing to pass two versions of legislation offering undocumented students in-state tuition, sponsors re-worked this year’s bill so that it instead sought to create a third level of tuition for undocumented students that fell between the in-state and out-of-state rates; and the bill also included a provision allowing colleges and universities to opt out.

The changes were enough for Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, the House Education Committee chairman who, after voting against last year’s bill, supported ASSET this year, enabling the measure to clear his committee and advance to a hearing before the House Finance Committee.

But that panel’s seven Republicans weren’t swayed, worried more about what happens to these students once they graduate college and are ineligible to be hired legally because of their undocumented status — a legitimate concern, Call said.

“It’s a recipe for disappointment, no doubt, any time you encourage people to go to college, to take out student loans and put themselves in debt, and then allow them to graduate knowing they won’t be able to find work,” Call said.

“There needs to be some path to permanent residency and the biggest problem is at the national level, and it’s because of the Democrats, frankly. When they controlled Congress, they did nothing on this issue despite all their promises to the Hispanic community.”

Earlier this month, Republicans attending the Colorado GOP State Assembly were polled on whether they wanted to see ASSET advance; surprisingly, 46 percent of those surveyed said they did.

“You can be a good Republican and be in support of ASSET,” Call said. “And you can also be a great Republican and be opposed to it.”

Asked if he had conversations about the ASSET bill with House Speaker Frank McNulty or other Republicans, Call was vague, admitting that he has conversations with “lots of lawmakers about lots of things” but has never sought to influence their votes.

“It’s awkward and inappropriate for a party chairman to get involved and to tell lawmakers what to do about voting on various policies,” Call said.

“They are all trying to strike a balance, in this case, between two important conservative principles. We are a party that believes very much in economic opportunity, educational opportunity and enabling people to achieve the American Dream through hard work; but we are also a party of law and order and we believe that violations of the law shouldn’t be overlooked.

“I defer to lawmakers to strike that balance,” Call continued. “And voters will hold those lawmakers and our party accountable in November at how good a job they’re doing.”