New ID requirement may affect seasonal workers
August 1, 2006
Gov. Bill Owens signed an immigration bill into effect this week that could mean more paperwork for seasonal employees seeking housing through the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Office.The bill, which took effect Tuesday, requires that those seeking public benefits must prove they are in the country legally by producing one of four pieces of identification: a Colorado driver’s license or official Colorado ID; a U.S. military ID; a U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner card; or a Native American tribal document. U.S. passports do not qualify because state officials said they were not secure. Aspen City Attorney John Worcester said the bill also requires each applicant to provide an affidavit showing U.S. citizenship or that the applicant is, as the bill states, “otherwise lawfully present in the United States pursuant to federal law.”In the past, the housing office has required applicants to show proof of employment, which put the burden on employers to verify employee documents.But housing office officials believe that as Worcester interprets the bill, their office must now ask applicants for the additional ID and the affidavit.According to Julie Kieffer, qualifications specialist with the housing office, that might mean a person coming to Aspen from North Dakota would have to get a Colorado ID to receive public benefits if the applicant lacked the military or Native American IDs.Kieffer and Cindy Christensen, operations manager for the housing office, both said their department is still considering the possible ramifications of the bill for their office, but they were concerned it could affect Aspen’s seasonal employees, who haven’t necessarily needed Colorado identification cards in the past. Kieffer said the housing office manages roughly 200 rental units in the Burlingame and Marolt affordable housing developments.The bill raised little concern at the Aspen Skiing Co., where Jim Laing, vice president of human resources, said the Skico hires all its foreign seasonal employees with legal U.S. visas.On Monday, Laing said he read the bill as an “either/or” document that applicants for public benefits would have to produce either a document from the list of four IDs or the affidavit. But Worcester said the bill clearly says the state requires both.Students with the Aspen Music Festival and School are among the housing office’s regular seasonal tenants, but Kieffer said they don’t apply for housing individually, so she wasn’t sure how they would be affected.The music school’s Janice Szabo said officials there haven’t yet had a chance to look at possible effects on student housing.”We just don’t know at this point,” she said.Christensen stressed that her office is still trying to make sense of what, exactly, the bill means for seasonal employees seeking affordable housing, but it seems likely the office will have to require the additional documentation, meaning more hoops to go through and paperwork for those employees.Statewide, an avalanche of people already receiving a variety of government benefits are expected to seek waivers so they can continue getting those benefits while they get the identification documents they need.The Associated Press contributed to this story.