Immigration bill likely to die

DENVER — A House committee is expected to kill a measure today that would turn Colorado’s main illegal immigration statute into one closely resembling a controversial Arizona law.

The measure, introduced by Rep. Randy Baumgardner, includes too many possible unconstitutional provisions, the Hot Sulphur Springs Republican said Tuesday. As a result, the House Agriculture, Natural Resources & Livestock Committee is expected to kill it without taking any testimony when it meets this morning.

“We had already cut the bill by a third, but there are some things that are still tied up in litigation in other states, and we don’t see the point of belaboring the taxpayers with all the litigation that could come,” he said.

Last summer, a federal court granted a preliminary injunction against portions of the Arizona law. Some of those same provisions are included in Baumgardner’s HB1107, including requiring law enforcement to check the status of a suspected illegal immigrant if they have reasonable suspicion to do so.

The court said that portion of the law would preempt federal jurisdiction over immigration and place an impermissible burden on federal agencies.

Baumgardner said it was never his intention to replace Colorado’s law with the tougher Arizona one, saying he wanted to find a way to encourage more Colorado law enforcement agencies to enforce the state’s law.

That 2006 law requires police to check the residency status of suspects after they’ve been arrested for some other crime.

Baumgardner said he also wanted to discourage businesses from hiring illegal immigrants by placing a $500 fine for every day businesses employ them. That money would go into a fund to help law enforcement cover expenses associated with arresting illegal immigrants.

Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins and a member of the panel that will kill Baumgardner’s bill, said there’s no proof Colorado’s immigration laws aren’t working.

“I’d be concerned about any bill that sets up a system where we would start profiling people on the basis of their language or ethnicity,” Fischer said. “Another of my concerns would be setting up a system that also allows a vigilante enforcement of immigration laws.”

Law enforcement officials in Colorado, including those in Mesa County, have said they are concerned about placing their officers in a position of being accused of racial profiling. They have pointed to a 2009 state audit that showed local and state law enforcement are in compliance with the 2006 state law. The audit also said that law spurred a 70 percent increase in reporting of illegal immigrants to federal officials.

Fischer said former Gov. Bill Ritter made that job easier when he had the state join a federal program that automatically checks the residency status of those booked into jail.

Another bill that similarly would expand Colorado’s law to be more like Arizona’s is to be heard next week in a Senate committee. It is not expected to pass.


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