Bill would bar camps in state for internees
Dems’ measure aims to thwart religious, ethnic discrimination
DENVER — Democrats in the Colorado Legislature want to make sure that the state plays no part in any effort to intern or otherwise target residents based on their religious affiliation or ethnicity.
While the measure clearly is aimed at any attempt by Republican President Donald Trump to go after Muslims, some GOP lawmakers said the idea paints with too broad a brush because it includes immigration status as well.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg said the measure, which cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, attempts to address two distinct issues at the same time: illegal immigration and the war against terrorism.
While Lundberg said he agrees wholeheartedly that the nation shouldn’t target people based on their religion, the idea of barring state and local agencies from cooperating with federal authorities over immigration status was a bad idea.
“I do not believe that we should have any religious tests for people because I believe that is a fundamental point established in the very first part of the very first amendment to the United States Constitution,” the Berthoud Republican said.
“A bill like this is designed to ignore this important distinction between people in our country. It’s a significant difference that must be understood ... but the immigration status is a core issue.”
The measure, introduced by Reps. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, and Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, would prohibit the state or any of its political subdivisions, such as counties, from helping the federal government detain, arrest, intern or even place “a physical or electronic identifier” solely based on their race, national origin, immigration status or religious affiliation.
While it is aimed at Trump’s efforts to bar people from predominantly Muslim nations from coming into the country, it also seeks to thwart any effort by the president’s administration to deport immigrants who are in the nation without proper documents.
“I can’t believe that in 2017 we’re having to talk about this,” said Salazar, who recently announced his bid to run for Colorado Attorney General next year.
While Salazar said the measure is unlike anything that any state legislature has ever before considered, it is similar to a bill that former Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita, introduced during his two-year stint in the Legislature.
In 2013 and 2014, Wright and then Sen. Jesse Ulibarri, D-Westminster, introduced bills to bar state and local law enforcement agencies from assisting any federal armed forces in any unconstitutional effort to target and detain citizens or legal residents suspected of cooperating with an international terrorist organization.
At the time, Wright said Congress and then President George W. Bush went too far in 2001, soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in passing the Patriot Act. He said they continued to “overstep” their authority in continuing some of that act’s precepts in the National Defense Authorization Act.
Like Wright in debating those bills, which died, Salazar and Esgar cited the Japanese internment camps set up in Colorado and elsewhere in the nation during World War II as an example of what can happen when some Americans are fearful of other groups, and why the bill needed to pass.