Employer compliance added to immigration measures at Capitol

DENVER — Rep. Randy Baumgardner is trying once again to impose fines on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

The Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, who introduced but later withdrew a similar measure earlier this session, reintroduced a proposal to offer immunity to employers who unwittingly hire undocumented workers, but impose hefty fines on those who intentionally do so.

Under the bill, all employers would have to use a federal database that checks the validity of employees’ Social Security numbers.

“The bill is about ensuring that businesses are not hiring immigrants who are not here legally,” Baumgardner said. “I’m not saying a lot of businesses are doing this, but there are businesses that are hiring people who are not here legally.”

His measure, House Bill 1309, joins three other renewed efforts related to illegal immigration.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, is proposing three ballot questions on proving citizenship, one of which is similar to Baumgardner’s measure. It would require all employers to verify the residency status of new hires.

Lambert also wants to give Secretary of State Scott Gessler the authority to check the residency status of the state’s 3.1 million registered voters, mirroring a similar bill that died earlier this session.

Additionally, the senator introduced a proposed ballot question to require anyone elected to office to show proof of citizenship.

All three are up for debate today in the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee, the same panel that killed all of the earlier immigration measures introduced by Lambert and other Republicans.

Only GOP lawmakers have signed onto the bill, including Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction. The Western Slope’s other Republican senators, Ellen Roberts of Durango and Jean White of Hayden, are not cosponsoring the bills.

As for Baumgardner’s measure, the lawmaker said he hopes other legislators won’t view his bill as some sort of Arizonalike idea that gives law enforcement unprecedented powers to check the legal status of anyone they choose.

Despite that assertion, Baumgardner’s bill does include some of the same provisions called for in last year’s Arizona laws, including allowing police to pull over anyone they suspect is transporting undocumented workers.

The measure also prohibits anyone from “encouraging or inducing” an unauthorized person to enter the state, and stopping or blocking traffic to pick up day laborers.

Under the bill, which will be heard in a House committee today, anyone who violates the prohibitions is subject to a $500-a-day fine.


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