Housing for seasonal workers appears safe from new laws for now | AspenTimes.com

Housing for seasonal workers appears safe from new laws for now

Abigail Eagye

A week after new state immigration rules took effect, authorities at Aspen’s housing office are still considering the ramifications, but it appears the area’s seasonal workers will not be affected this winter.The long-term effects on the area’s seasonal and year-round work force are not yet clear, however.The new legislation requires additional identification documents to prove applicants for public benefits are in the country legally. Although the bill doesn’t list passports and visas, emergency rules in effect until March 1 do allow passports with certain valid visas.”We think we’re going to be able to house people who are here from another country because they have a passport and a visa,” said Tom McCabe, executive director of the housing office.McCabe said the housing office has already received a flood of calls from seasonal workers trying to line up housing for the coming ski season who want to make sure their paperwork is in order. Under the emergency rules, he said, if they can get into the country legally, they should have the necessary documents.McCabe suspects the bill will have a greater impact on permanent residents trying to renew public benefits than it will on seasonal employees seeking benefits such as housing. If those applicants haven’t had to enter the country recently, they might not have the necessary documents, or those documents might be expired. He said that if those immigrants apply for public benefits and are flagged for inadequate documentation, it’s not clear what would happen to them. At the very least, they won’t be eligible for Aspen’s affordable housing program or other public benefits.Because the bill was hurried through a special session, McCabe said, it doesn’t appear to have been well thought-out. He expects the state Legislature will revisit the bill in its next session, and if Colorado elects a Democratic governor in November, the bill could see radical changes.Even if it remains essentially intact, McCabe predicted that lobbying efforts by the ski industry, among others, will force amendments to the bill to ensure a stable work force.”It will shake itself out in pretty short order,” he said. “I’m glad to see that a little reality has crept in here in the past couple days. At least initially, we have a little more breathing space.”McCabe suspected Gov. Bill Owens wanted to ensure he implemented some form of immigration regulations before his run as governor comes to an end Jan. 1. “This was ramrodded through because Owens really wanted to have this on his track record,” he said.As the bill is written, the only acceptable forms of ID proving lawful presence in the country are a Colorado driver’s license or ID, a U.S. military ID, a U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner card or a Native American tribal document. Passports will not be accepted.Some public benefits are exempt from the bill and will not require the additional documents. Among them are emergency health-care items and services; short-term, noncash, in-kind emergency disaster relief; public health assistance for immunizations; and prenatal care.The Colorado Department of Revenue website, http://www.revenue.state.co.us, gives a complete list of the bill’s requirements for proof of lawful presence, as well as the emergency rules in effect through March 1. The links are under the heading, “Evidence of Lawful Presence: HB06S-1023.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com