Illegal immigration debate at the Capitol could be a real education for John Hickenlooper

Illegal immigrants took over the State Capitol yesterday -- figuratively speaking, at least -- when Senate Bill 54 was introduced by Senator Kent Lambert. It's essentially a copycat of Arizona's controversial (and constitutionally challenged) law, and a major waste of time. Until Arizona passed its measure, Colorado had the toughest anti-illegal immigration law, passed in 2006, and it's been almost impossible to enforce.

After all, when it comes to immigration, the power lies with the feds, not the states.

But if SB 54 doesn't go anywhere, another measure is sure to stir up dust::Two Democratic senators, including education whiz Michael Johnston, are planning to introduce a bill that would allow undocumented students who've graduated from Colorado high schools to enroll at Colorado's public colleges and get in-state tuition. A similar proposal failed in 2009 -- but this time, the debate should be particularly interesting.

At a gubernatorial debate at the Denver Botanic Gardens in October, now-Governor John Hickenlooper said that he would not support such a measure. But there are a lot of persuasive details that might help him change his mind.

For starters, there's this Westword cover story about Pablo, an amazing student at West High School with a bright future -- dimmed by the fact that as a child, his parents brought him to this country illegally. It was a real mind-changer for me on this issue.

The author? Helen Thorpe, wife of Colorado's new governor.

Let the debate begin.

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