Sloppy enaction mars grand intentions
January 5, 2007
Aspen, CO Colorado
The battery of rules Colorado legislators passed in August, in an attempt to curb illegal immigration and some of its undesirable effects on the state, is having unintended consequences.
Lawmakers launch their regular session Jan. 10, and we hope they’ll act swiftly to clean up some of the inadvertent messes they’ve created.
For those who missed the stories in Thursday’s paper under the headline “Unintended immigration consequences,” it appears that both local and state government agencies are struggling to abide by new laws intended to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving various public benefits. The laws are affecting many more people than just illegal immigrants, and they appear to be imposing considerable administrative burdens on public entities from the state Department of Revenue to the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority.
Since the legislation passed, the local housing office has run the names of 229 housing applicants through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program. For whatever reason, 70 of those names are still pending, meaning that some workers who have come to Aspen with valid visas may not legally be allowed to occupy seasonal rental housing.
Local authorities are trying to meet their obligations and com°©plete the necessary paperwork on these applicants but simply don’t know how to do so. As qualifications specialist Julie Kieffer put it, “I don’t know where to send [the paperwork], what to send or who to send it to.”
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And when she calls the state for help, she gets passed from agency to agency; nobody seems to know who is responsible or accountable for ensuring compliance.
This looks to us like a case of grand intentions hastily and sloppily enacted. Did the legislators overlook the fact that Colorado’s premier tourism industry, skiing, relies heavily on seasonal workers from other coun°©tries? Aspen cannot be the only community affected this way.
The mess doesn’t end with the kind of unnecessary red tape cited above. Housing Director Tom McCabe said the new laws have entangled U.S. citizens.
Reportedly, a number of Alaska residents recently arrived in Aspen, intending to work for the Roaring Fork Transit Authority, but were unable to secure housing through McCabe’s office because they didn’t have Colorado driver’s licenses or identification cards.
This may promote the acquisition of valid Colorado IDs for all of the state’s permanent and temporary citizens ” a worthy end, we suppose ” but it also feels like overkill. How about a grace period for U.S. citizens unwittingly caught in this bureaucratic net?
Whatever one’s feelings about illegal immigration and the costs it imposes on American society, these laws are in serious need of streamlining.