Will immigration reform be the deciding factor in Colorado's Senate race?

Immigration is the hot button issue in many of today's prominent headlines. We're not a border state, but could immigration reform policies potentially determine Colorado's Senate race? 

Mark K. Matthews --- The Denver Post 

WASHINGTON — There's a story that Rep. Cory Gardner likes to tell when he's asked about his position on illegal immigration. Although the details sometimes vary, it always involves a high school student from rural Colorado whom he met several years ago. When they meet for the first time, the young woman — whom Gardner doesn't mention by name — is on pace to become valedictorian. But because she was brought into the U.S. illegally as a baby, she's unable to attend college in Colorado at in-state rates. So she asks Gardner whether he supports changing the rules right away so she can afford a higher education. His response then — as it is now — is no. "Allowing passage of such a policy was avoiding the real problem," Gardner recounted in testimony to Congress last year. "We can't start with in-state tuition because we have to pursue meaningful immigration reform first."

Fast-forward a few years. Gardner meets the young woman again — this time working at a restaurant in that same rural town. "The valedictorian of her high school, waiting tables," he said with a downward glance.

The lesson, according to Gardner, is that Congress needs to get serious about passing immigration reform. But in such a way that it addresses security first — before tackling the needs of students such as that valedictorian-turned-waitress.

"This time, Congress cannot just talk about immigration reform. Congress must act," Gardner said.

It's a lofty anecdote told by a skilled politician.

But the woman in Gardner's tale said there's a different moral to the story.

"The most important thing that people should take away (when) reading about me is that I'm not asking for a handout," said Rubi Gutierrez, 24, now living in Moorhead, Minn. Immigrants such as her, she said, simply want a chance to "earn our way to citizenship."

"We just want to fit in and go to college with our friends," she said.

Gutierrez said she left Colorado to attend Minnesota State University-Moorhead, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2012 with a degree in biology.

The school, she said, allowed residents accepted there to receive in-state tuition and had a "don't ask, don't tell" practice when dealing with immigration status. "The only school where I could find a loophole to get into college," she said.

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