Colo. House gives initial OK to Secure Communities

DENVER — A Republican proposal to withhold funding from Colorado municipalities who reject a divisive federal immigration fingerprinting program got preliminary approval today amid objections from Democrats who said the bill will punish small communities who don’t have the technology to join the initiative.

Republicans said withholding severance and cigarette taxes from municipalities that refuse to participate in the immigration program will serve as an incentive to implement Secure Communities statewide. Run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the program quickly references fingerprints against records from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. It’s a capacity local jurisdictions don’t immediately have.

Critics of Secure Communities say it can lead to racial profiling and will make illegal immigrants reluctant to cooperate with authorities in criminal matters for fear of being caught in the immigration system. Some jurisdictions around the country, including Washington, D.C., have opposed the program. It became operational in San Francisco last summer over objections from the sheriff.

Rep. David Balmer, a Republican from Arapahoe County who is sponsoring House Bill 1140, said he has heard some Colorado municipalities, including Basalt, Boulder and Durango, had expressed reservations about the program. He argues that the funding proposal — which he called “a carrot and a stick” approach — will address that.

“So this is a punishment to communities that don’t want participate and it is a reward to communities that do want to participate and do want to take seriously enforcing our immigration laws and making sure that Colorado is safe from dangerous criminal illegal aliens,” he said.

Lawmakers approved the bill on a voice vote today. It faces another vote before going to the Senate.



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