Aspen backs advocates of immigration reform
November 6, 2013
The Aspen City Council on Monday night gave its support to a group trying to influence immigration reform by getting the attention of U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton.
According to the Colorado Fiscal Institute, passage of the sweeping immigration bill, SB 744, would produce $15.8 billion in gross state product in 10 years. It also would create a $9.1 billion increase in wages for state residents, 2,300 new jobs annually and $681 million in additional taxes from immigrants. The Senate passed the bill in June but, without Republican support, the Senate version is unlikely to pass in the House of Representatives. Two of the House's GOP representatives are Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman, of Cortez and Aurora, respectively.
"Just here in the Roaring Fork Valley, there's a very large immigrant population, and those people are working in our restaurants, in our hotels, in our construction businesses, basically everything that supports this rural, tourism resort economy, … and also in our school district," said Sophia Clark, who spoke on behalf of the Colorado Immigration Reform Coalition at Monday's work session.
Last week, the Denver Post reported that Tipton was on board with "a good, viable guest worker program, good border security, something that works for the employer and employee."
Clark, who grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley, has been working for the past six months to gain support from local governments and other groups. She said the ultimate goal is to gain permanent citizenship for millions of people who are living without documentation.
On Monday, the council, minus council member Adam Frisch, gave its full support for letters written by the coalition to members of the House. There is no specific legislation on the table at this time, but Clark's group has outlined principles on border security, citizenship and clearing up issues like a 20-year clock that might cause the laws to regress.
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"There's a handful of proposals in the House, and some of them are good, and some of them are very bad," Clark said. "I think the representatives in the House need to know that their political future is on the line. There is so much public pressure right now, so something is probably going to go through, and whatever it is, we really want it to reflect the right things."
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Pitkin Board of County Commissioners also have signed on.
"It's clear to me that supporting immigration reform is important to our mountain-resort economy. … I agree with you," council member Art Daily said to Clark. "It's time to fix this system."
Mayor Steve Skadron added, "I believe this is the appropriate step for the city, and we should be behind this."
The coalition has scheduled a news conference for Nov. 21 to outline why immigration reform is important in the Roaring Fork Valley and garner the attention of Tipton.