DENVER– Illegal immigrants are among this legislative session’s biggest winners, scoring big victories on in-state college tuition for undocumented students, and immunity from law enforcement reporting their presence to federal immigration authorities – both signed into law by Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper. And the haul may not be over just yet.
Two other illegal immigrant-friendly measures are pending, and will likely be signed by Hickenlooper.
One measure would grant driver licenses and identity cards to undocumented foreigners, and the other would reform state election laws to allow same-day voter registration to anyone with a utility bill. Neither would require a photo ID card.
All of the bills were backed by immigrant advocacy groups, Democrats and labor unions in Colorado, which have funded the Democrat legislators’ election campaigns.
“We believe in a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants,” said Jan Manis, a union member of SEIU Local 105. “Second class status is not an option that we accept for working families.”
Democrat Reps. Joe Salazar of Thornton, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri of Commerce City and Sen. Angela Giron of Denver spoke at a rally in support of federal immigration reform on the West Capitol steps. The rally drew a crowd of undocumented workers and union members on May 1, International Workers Day.
“[T]ell members of the [U.S.] Senate Judiciary Committee that our border is more secured than ever! Immigration reform must include a path to citizenship without delay and without unnecessary obstacles,” states the Mi Familia Vota Colorado website.
The problem with Colorado’s election reform act bill, opponents argue, is that opens the door to voter fraud because same-day voter registration without a photo ID can’t be verified. They worry that all that is required is a utility bill showing a voter registrant has lived in a precinct for 22 days which could entice individuals to move into the state or illegal immigrants to register and cast a vote. Those votes could affect the outcome of an election.
“Voting is the hallmark to our democracy, we need to make it more convenient,” said Giron, who sponsored the bill with Democrat Reps. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Longmont and Dan Pabon of Denver.
“It creates a clear path to voter fraud – for people to steal elections,” said Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray).
Immigrant advocacy groups and labor unions are politically motivated and involved in the process. Mi Familia Vota posted an ad seeking canvassers, who speak English and Spanish, “to help increase civic participation in the Latino community and help pass immigration reform.”
The $12-an hour job includes door-to-door voter registration. An audit of Colorado’s active registered voters last year turned up some non-citizens.
The Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would grant state-issued identity cards and driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. To be eligible, applicants provide a copy of their state tax return, a federal ID number and a passport, military ID or consulate card from their country of origin.
Democrats rejected amendments proposed by Republicans that would have required a photo ID to prove a person’s identity and fingerprints put through a background check.
“This bill addresses a public safety concern that’s been lacking for years,” said Rep. Jovan Melton (D-Aurora). “That is making sure all residents using our roads know the rules regardless of documentation.”
Rep. Dan Nordberg (R-Colorado Springs) said, “This bill is being pushed as a public safety measure, but I believe it will have the opposite effect.”
“There is no mechanism in this bill to check the criminal background of applicants,” added Nordberg. “…Why are we giving special rights to non-citizens?”