Immigrants are vital part of the valley’s fabric, economy |

Immigrants are vital part of the valley’s fabric, economy

Immigration is an issue that’s always been with us.

Today, there are no less than 400,000 immigrants living in Colorado, half of them without the proper paperwork. Officially, nearly 9,000 of those live in the Roaring Fork Valley, although nobody knows the exact number.

The faces of immigration, legal and illegal, in the valley are varied. They’re white and black and brown faces from Europe, Australia, Asia, and the Americas. Most are in fact North Americans ” Mexicans who have made their way to one of the most flush economies in the world.

The faces of reaction to immigration vary widely as well. The Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, formerly the INS, has a field office in Glenwood Springs with the mission of rounding up illegal immigrants and shipping them home.

Urging on the ICE is the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR), a statewide group that believes all illegal aliens should be deported and that the number of legal immigrants entering the United States each year be reduced from a million to 300,000.

Local law enforcement is also involved with immigration.

Whenever an immigrant breaks the law, gets caught and ends up in jail, his immigration status is checked; if he doesn’t have proper documentation, the ICE is notified.

Nonprofit agencies up and down the valley, including the Aspen Valley Community Foundation and Catholic Charities, provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions and services to support immigrants, both legal and illegal.

Immigrants spend their money on everything from food to rent to recreation, and pay sales taxes, if not income and property taxes as well. Local firms hire immigrants to provide services from landscaping to fine dining that make this valley what it is. Other businesses, from the grocery store to the auto mechanic to the accountant, sell goods and services to resident immigrants.

Like anyone else, immigrants are part of the local culture and part of the local economy. There’s no way around it.

It is worthwhile for the United States to control immigration, if for no other reason than to keep the nation’s critical services ” law enforcement, education, health care ” and infrastructure from being overwhelmed.

But it is also important to remember that our borders will always be porous, and will always be enticing to cross for people seeking opportunity ” the same opportunity that our parents, grandparents or ancestors sought.

That’s important to keep in mind, regardless of where one stands on the question of who and how many of them should be let in.

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