House Panel Approves Salazar Bill to Ease Immigration Enforcement

March 20, 2013
By

REVERSAL: Salazar’s bill would overturn a 2006 law that passed with broad bi-partisan support

DENVER– Most illegal immigrants living in Colorado will be protected from being reported to federal immigration officials and fearing deportation according a measure that cleared a state House committee.

“We’re talking about community trust. We’re talking about dignity and safety. We’re talking about family,” declared Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton), who is sponsoring the bill with Democrat Sens. Morgan Carroll of Aurora and Irene Aguilar of Denver.

House Bill 1258, “An Act Concerning Government Involvement with Federal Immigration Issues,” would repeal Senate Bill 90, adopted in 2006, which amended state law to require “local government cooperation with federal officials regarding the immigration status of persons.”

This week, mainstream news media described Senate Bill 90 as “divisive” and “controversial.” In reality, the bill was passed in 2006 with broad bi-partisan support – unanimously in the state Senate and 49 – 16 in the House.  Among those casting “aye” votes for the 2006 law were House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and then-state Rep. Morgan Carroll.

That same year, Romanoff and Carroll supported enactment of a bill that imposed a far-reaching ban on public benefits for illegal immigrants which also precluded them from gaining in-state college tuition afforded to legal students.

Salazar said repealing SB 90 and adopting HB 1258, will improve the safety of communities and illegal immigrant families, who too often refuse to summon law enforcement officers to prevent violent crimes or protect themselves much less be a witness because they feared being deported.

Monday in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, several witnesses risked their illegal immigrant status to testify for Salazar’s bill.

With an interpreter, a woman spoke in Spanish of her fear of calling police to report a child abuse case. A resident of Coloradofor the past decade, the woman said she had been detained once for driving without a license and has no criminal records. With reluctance she called police – but later, she said, it was the mother of the child who threatened to report her illegal status to federal authorities.

A 20-year-old college student in Grand Junction said he was brought to this country as a three-year-old and had a passport issued by Mexico. Yet, that document appeared suspicious to Mesa County Sheriffs who stopped the young man on a speeding charge and driving without a license.

He recounted the humiliation of being detained for hours at the county jail until sheriffs talked with federal immigration officials who agreed to set him free. The young man had enlisted in President Barack Obama’s deferment program by executive order, and now has a driver’s license.

“He didn’t commit a crime. He didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t present false documents,” declared Salazar.

A force behind Salazar’s bill is the Campaign to Unite Colorado under the Colorado Immigration Rights Commission which was launched last year, and solicited personal stories from illegal immigrants through a website, hotline and personal interviews.

“The Campaign to Unite Colorado was born out of the urgent need to unite our state again with values of trust, dignity and safety,” said Gabriela Flora, a steering committee member who evaluated the responses.

“By far the most disturbing pattern we found is that of ICE (U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement) placing holds on people with minor traffic infractions and misdemeanor criminal offenses,” said Flora.

A review of hotline callers, she said, revealed that 65 percent of the respondents statewide had been detained for those minor offenses and proffering false identification cards. Flora said some individuals had been charged with crimes that were later dismissed – but were reported to ICE.

“We have also spoken with many victims of domestic violence who were – after surviving a domestic violence incident – picked up by ICE,” said Flora. “Despite having charges dropped, they were placed into deportation proceedings.”

“Obviously this has a chilling effect,” she said.

No documentation was offered to show whether the charges were dropped by the victim of violence or law enforcement officers and district attorneys.

Greenwood Police Chief John Jackson said that his peers throughout Colorado support repeal of SB 90 which required mandatory reporting of potential illegal immigrants to ICE and is based on the individual’s name. Preferable is Salazar’s bill which would enable law enforcement to use fingerprints to electronically check the national database – and then determine whether to contact ICE.

Jackson said that Salazar’s bill does not represent a significant cost savings to local law enforcement departments and does not protect those convicted of or charged with felonies.

The bill heads to the House floor after passing the committee on a 9 – 2 vote with Republican state Reps. Steve Humphrey of Weld County and Dan Nordberg of El Paso County opposed.

Salazar dismissed charges that his bill would create sanctuary cities.

“That’s the functional equivalent of finding the lost city of Cibola or El Dorado or the Fountain of Youth,” said Salazar.  “(The bill) protects our communities.”

Salazar’s bill is scheduled to be taken up by the full House on Wednesday.

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

2 Responses to House Panel Approves Salazar Bill to Ease Immigration Enforcement

  1. keith Lucy
    March 20, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Even if illegal aliens were reported to ICE, nothing would be done, so this bill is irrelevant. However, the over all strategy is to legitimize those who have broken the law. Let’s make all those illegally in the country citizens, with one exception, they can’t vote for 25 years, would liberals agree to that proposal? Ofcourse not.

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