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Immigration debate not over yet

Allyn Harvey

The fracas that erupted over a county resolution on immigration earlier this month picked up again this week, when an an Aspen city councilman spoke out in its defense.

Councilman Terry Paulson spoke up Wednesday and urged the Pitkin County commissioners not to rescind the resolution, which calls on the federal government to sharply cut back on immigration.

His words may result in peace, at least locally, among immigration critics and supporters. The commissioners directed staffers to explore the idea of a seminar this fall to discuss the issue from both a local and national perspective.

The resolution in question was adopted by the county commissioners in early April, shortly after a slightly different version was adopted by the Aspen City Council. It calls on President Bill Clinton to implement laws that will stabilize population growth by limiting all immigration, legal and illegal, to 175,000 new residents per year.

Those laws should also require conservation of resources and energy use at home, and equitable wages and environmental protection from our international trading partners, the resolution states.

Paulson’s comments, which were made informally during the citizen comment period, came just eight days after Glenwood Springs attorney Calvin Lee laid out the case for rescinding the resolution in an appearance before commissioners.

Lee asserted the resolution blamed one group of people – immigrants – for a host of the area’s environmental woes. And he brought in a Denver attorney who specializes in immigration law – mostly representing companies trying to import foreign talent and labor – to explain that Congress is in the midst of debating new laws that would make it easier, not harder, to come to America.

The commissioners agreed after Lee’s presentation to reconsider the resolution, with County Commissioner Leslie Lamont even suggesting they might rescind it.

Paulson reminded them this week that environmental protection was his primary concern when he drafted it.

“I was very careful when I wrote that resolution. I didn’t want there to be any racist overtones,” he said in an interview yesterday. “But people need to take a look at the numbers. When communities are deluged with large numbers of new people, they can’t get anywhere.”

If commissioners are going to make any changes at all, they should amend the resolution, not rescind it, Paulson said. The commissioners agreed to hold off on any final decision while the county’s community relations director, Nan Sundeen, gathers more information about what would be needed to set up a forum.

“I would love to see a room filled with the people who have studied the numbers on immigration and people who are in favor of keeping our borders open. I think it would provide a reality check for the open-border people,” Paulson said.

Lee said yesterday that he would rather the commissioners rescind the resolution, but would be willing to discuss possibly amending it.

“The resolution cites all these problems without recognizing that there are some legitimate reasons for letting people in,” he said.

Any amendment needs to reflect that there are legitimate reasons for letting large numbers of people into the United States, according to Lee. He added that he would be happy to participate in a community forum.

Sundeen said she had yet to act on the commissioners’ request, but expects to start on it soon. She urged anyone with ideas about venues, speakers or topics to call her at 920-5209.


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