Colorado GOP in Arizona to talk about immigration

Jonathan J. Cooper
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

PHOENIX – Colorado Republicans will introduce an immigration enforcement measure nearly identical to a controversial law passed this year in Arizona, lawmakers said Wednesday after meeting with the legislators behind the effort here.

“We are prepared to take on this issue directly because we know the people of Colorado expect us to deal with the issue,” Kevin Lundberg, chairman of Colorado’s Republican Study Committee, said at a news conference in Phoenix.

The Colorado lawmakers said they would try to mirror Arizona’s law as precisely as possible. But they also want to take other actions, including cracking down on employers that hire illegal immigrants.

A federal judge last month delayed the most contentious provisions of Arizona’s law a day before it went into effect, including a section that would require officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally.

But the judge allowed other provisions, including a section that bars local governments from limiting enforcement of federal immigration laws. Those jurisdictions are commonly known as “sanctuary cities.”

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, who sponsored the measure known as SB 1070, told his counterparts from Colorado that there’s not much lawmakers can do to avoid lawsuits when taking aggressive action against illegal immigrants.

“It was never the intent to avoid the lawsuit,” Pearce said. “They’ll sue you no matter what you do. We intend to win.”

Colorado Republicans would face an uphill battle in passing a law similar Arizona’s because they don’t have a majority in either chamber. But Sen. Dave Schultheis said the political climate is changing.

“We will not back down on this. This is going to happen,” he said.

Tennessee and Utah also sent delegations to Arizona this summer to get advice on copying the immigration law, and Pearce said he’s fielded calls from a number of lawmakers in other parts of the country.

Randy Parraz, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate who opposes Arizona’s law, said illegal immigration is a federal responsibility and Colorado lawmakers should be meeting with lawmakers in Washington.

“This is about politics. They don’t care about securing the border,” said Parraz, who attended the news conference. “This is about creating a wedge in our politics and about dividing people up.”