Immigration mistake

Colorado Sen. Kent Lambert - R-Colorado Springs

The latest attempt to appear tough on illegal immigration is a bill in the Colorado Senate that is loosely related to last year’s controversial Arizona immigration bill.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, has a handful of GOP cosponsors, including Sen. Steve King of Grand Junction. But it isn’t likely to go far in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and it shouldn’t.

Senate Bill 54 isn’t as oppressive as the original Arizona bill. For one thing, it doesn’t require immigrants to carry with them at all times documents proving they are in the country legally. Additionally, it doesn’t create a mechanism to allow citizens to file legal complaints against police officers or departments that citizens believe aren’t doing enough to enforce immigration laws.

Also, while SB 54 would allow any police officer in the state to arrest anyone the officer has probable cause to believe is in this country illegally, that’s a higher legal standard than the original Arizona law. That authorized officers to stop anyone if they had “reasonable suspicion” they might be in the country illegally.

Our major problem with SB 54 is that duplicates much of what is already on Colorado’s books, while giving critics a chance to argue Colorado is going down the same road as Arizona.

Why would people in this state — hungry for jobs and economic improvement — want Colorado to be linked to another state’s law that, according to some estimates, has already cost Arizona hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business?

One of Lambert’s cosponsors said the bill is an effort to crack down on illegal immigrants who commit other crimes while in this country. But in that respect, it is unnecessary.

Colorado already has a law that requires police to check the residency status of anyone they arrest, and report illegal immigrants to federal authorities. Furthermore, an executive order signed last month by former Gov. Bill Ritter, and endorsed by new Gov. John Hickenlooper, authorizes law enforcement agencies in the state to submit the fingerprints of anyone they arrest to federal immigration authorities. The order is part of a federal effort to find and deport illegal immigrants who commit other crimes in this country.

Lambert’s bill has prompted concerns from the Colorado Association of Police Chiefs about local police being required to perform the duties of federal immigration officers.

Until Arizona passed its law last year, Colorado had some of the toughest laws in the country regarding illegal immigrants. Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, who is a cosponsor of Lambert’s bill, said he also plans to introduce legislation to improve enforcement of those laws.

Enforcing existing laws is sensible, although it shouldn’t require additional bills to enforce what was adopted just a few years ago.

But there is no need for Colorado to adopt an Arizona-style law. We have none of the severe border problems that Arizona faces. Also, various estimates indicate that the number of illegal immigrants in this country has dropped significantly in recent years.

SB 54 is a waste of time and energy when the legislative focus should be on improving the state’s economy. It should be soundly rejected.


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