Law like Arizona’s a no-go, says Republican

Republicans intend to introduce several illegal-immigration measures when the Legislature starts work this month, and at least one GOP member is hopeful something will be passed by a divided statehouse and signed by a Democratic governor.

Rep. Randy Baumgardner said he plans to introduce a bill that would not mimic Arizona’s tough new law but do something his Democratic colleagues would support:  forcing Colorado to enforce the laws it already has on the books.

“When you mention immigration, everybody gets a little twitchy,” said Baumgardner, a Republican from Hot Sulphur Springs. “It’s a work in progress, but we’ll have something. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like just yet, but it is not 1070.”

Arizona House Bill 1070 is the controversial law approved by the Arizona Legislature last year. It requires law enforcement officials to determine the legal status of anyone they suspect of being in the nation illegally.

Colorado’s law, passed in 2005, is similar, but it doesn’t go that far. Under it, law enforcement officers are required to make a legal-status check only after arresting someone on some other charge and notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they find anyone here illegally.

Baumgardner said Colorado could achieve the same thing Arizona is after — booting such people from the state — if only law enforcement in the state actually enforced the law.

Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper and Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey, however, aren’t persuaded that any change needs to happen.

Both law enforcement officials said they are enforcing the state’s law and will continue to do so. At the same time, they are concerned that any changes to it might put their officers in a position of being accused of racial profiling. The two also questioned the need to make any changes, saying they know of no law enforcement agency in the state that isn’t enforcing the law.

“(The law) requires us to cooperate with ICE when somebody’s country of origin and status is questionable, and that we’re in compliance with,” Hilkey said. “In fact, in a state legislative audit on that, the state got pretty high marks, so I don’t know who might not be doing it.”

Regardless of whether Colorado’s laws are being enforced, other Republicans in the Legislature plan not only to introduce the tougher Arizona-style law, but others as well, said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud.

Lundberg said he’s planning to introduce a bill to require law enforcement in the state to participate in a Homeland Security program that matches fingerprints of suspected illegal immigrants with known people who have been detained or deported.

He said another bill is expected to be introduced to require all Colorado businesses to verify employees’ Social Security numbers against a federal database to see if they are valid. Currently, use of that database is voluntary.

Lundburg said he knows that such measures will face tough battles in the Legislature but believes it’s still important to introduce them.

“It’s important to put out a comprehensive piece like 1070 as a touchstone of where many of us think we ought to go,” he said. “By the same token, you play within the realities to move the ball forward as much as you can. This also is a way of being up front with people and letting them understand what we believe is the best solution for these things. That’s also why you run a big bill even though it doesn’t hold a lot of prospect of passing.”


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