DENVER - On a narrow margin, the Senate killed a bill to give in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants who have attended Colorado high schools for at least three years.
Five Democrats, including Sen. Jim Isgar of Hesperus, sealed the bill's fate by voting "no." It lost 18-16. Monday's four-hour debate was an unusually heated one, in which senators:•Invoked the Nazi Holocaust.
•Accused the sponsor of committing a felony for supporting the bill.
•Debated interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures.
The sponsor, Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, said he wasn't finished, and he would bring the issue back this year, but he declined to offer details.
Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver, compared the situation to her Jewish heritage. She told about a ship full of refugees from Nazi Germany who were turned away in Miami because of immigration quotas.
"The ship turned around, went back to Germany. They all perished in different camps. So I understand rules, I understand laws. But sometimes we have to think with our hearts," Foster said.
Foster and Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, debated competing interpretations of what the Book of Leviticus says about the treatment of foreigners.
Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, called out Romer and Gov. Bill Ritter, charging them with breaking their oaths of office.
"Who do Governor Ritter and Senator Romer represent? You, us, or the illegal aliens and prominent business owners" who profit by employing illegal immigrants, Spence said, adding that the bill would draw drug cartels and violent criminals to Colorado.
"Senator Romer needs also to be reminded that granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens is aiding and abetting illegal immigration, which is a felony," she said.
Sen. Peter Groff, the first black Senate president in Colorado history, told Spence it took courage to change the laws in the 1960s that prevented blacks from voting or using the same water fountains as whites.
"Just because it's the law of the land doesn't mean we can't change it. That's why we're here," said Groff, D-Denver.
Republicans argued that the bill broke federal law. Democrats, however, said several surrounding states - including Kansas, Utah, Texas and Oklahoma - already have passed similar laws, and federal courts upheld the Kansas law two years ago.
In that case, Kristen Day and other out-of-state students at Kansas colleges sued the state, claiming it was unfair to charge them out-of-state tuition while giving discounts to illegal immigrants.
The Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Day and the other students failed to show they had been injured. University budgets aren't a "zero-sum game," the court said, and there's no evidence that allowing discounted tuition for illegal immigrants raises the tuition for out-of-state students or forces them to subsidize immigrants.
The court also said the law didn't discriminate against the plaintiffs because, unlike the immigrants eligible for in-state tuition, they hadn't attended three years of high school in Kansas, according to the opinion by Senior Judge David Ebel.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Day's appeal.
The bill failed even after Romer agreed to an amendment that makes the bill contingent on the passage of the federal Dream Act, which would allow the children of illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship in exchange for two years in the military or college, plus other requirements.
The bill was introduced in Congress last month.
Romer said he'll keep working on a change to Colorado law that would prevent the Dream Act from applying here, assuming the federal law passes this year.