GOP lawmakers disagree over illegal immigration
November 29, 2010
DENVER – Colorado Republican state lawmakers are divided over whether to introduce an Arizona-style package of laws to deal with illegal immigration next year.
Sen.-elect Kent Lambert, a Republican from Colorado Springs, said he planned to introduce the legislation when the Legislature convenes in January. It has a long list of new requirements, including controversial ones that require that authorities verify the immigration status of all arrested people before being released from jail and allows for warrantless arrests.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, a Berthoud lawmaker who chairs the Colorado Republican Study Committee, which has no official powers, said Monday that Republicans should try to make small changes to try to win approval from Democrats and Democratic Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper.
Lundberg said Colorado has a different political environment from Arizona, a border state that needed comprehensive reform.
“Our bills are going to have to be targeted,” he said.
House Minority Leader-elect Sal Pace, a Democrat from Pueblo, said changes are needed and that while he’s open to suggestions, Arizona does not have the solutions.
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“Our immigration system is broken. Coloradans have sought, and they deserve, comprehensive reform that is grounded in the principles of responsibility and accountability. I am open to thoughtful, cost-effective proposals that reflect the values of our citizens, but foisting a one-size-fits-all law such as Arizona’s onto our unique state isn’t the thoughtful answer Coloradans deserve,” he said.
Lundberg said Republicans were forced to make compromises during a special session in 2006 while fellow Republican Gov. Bill Owens was in office and Democrats controlled the Legislature. This year, Democrats control the state Senate and governor’s office, and Republicans control the House.
The Arizona law requires that authorities verify the status of all arrested people before being released from jail and that immigrants obtain or carry immigration registration papers. It also bans illegal immigrants from soliciting work in public places and allows for warrantless arrests when people commit crimes that can result in their deportation.
One of the laws passed by Colorado in 2006 barred immigrants from receiving some state services unless they can prove they are in the country legally. Another required law enforcement to report anyone they believe to be in the country illegally to federal immigration agents.
Lawmakers also created a state patrol unit that year that has the authority to enforce immigration law during routing patrols and to curb human smuggling.
Steve Hendrickson, president of Porter Industries, a cleaning company, said he has tried to follow Colorado laws but he told lawmakers they have done little to curb the hiring of illegal immigrants in his industry. He said his cleaning crews have access to a lot of sensitive information and government agencies.
“I, for one, don’t want to be responsible for giving these keys to terrorists. This is not a level playing field,” he said.