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New watchdog group puts eye on immigration

Allyn Harvey

This weekend promises to be an interesting one for people who are worried about the valley’s burgeoning population and are opposed to immigration – legal and illegal.

On Friday, former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm and longtime Aspenite Mike McGarry will speak about immigration at the Friday Men’s Lunch Club. Lamm has written extensively on the subject, and is on the board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

A day later, McGarry will be hosting what he hopes will be the first meeting of a new organization aimed at checking population growth and immigration of foreign nationals to the Roaring Fork Valley.

“Are you curious, concerned or disturbed that your city and county resources and ski company efforts are going to further an artificial population growth in the Roaring Fork Valley?” reads an advertisement for the new group. McGarry has prepared the ad for publication in local papers.

“Are you curious, concerned or disturbed that massive, endless legal and illegal immigration are the principal causes of these developments, or are you at least willing to learn more about that?” the ad continues.

McGarry, one of the valley’s most outspoken critics of immigration, would like to see the Valley Alliance for Social and Environmental Responsibility become a permanent fixture. And as an opening shot, he would like to see the organization rally for an end to public funding for Roaring Fork Legal Services.

Formed last winter with mostly private donations, Roaring Fork Legal Services offers advice on civil matters – divorce, landlord/tenant disputes, welfare law, domestic abuse and immigration – to people who can’t afford to retain a lawyer of their own.

McGarry is troubled by the organization’s offer to meet with about 5,000 immigrants – documented and undocumented – and advise them on how to react to the opening of an Immigration and Naturalization Service field office in Glenwood Springs later this year.

“What we have here is the city and county giving sustenance to an organization that is trying to thwart the efforts of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to enforce the law,” McGarry said.

McGarry objects to the fact that the city of Aspen gave $5,000 to the legal service this year, while Pitkin County donated $3,000 and provided office space near the hospital. He would rather see the money and space used to serve people who belong here, he said.

Roaring Fork Legal Services Board Chairman Tim McFlynn confirmed that the organization receives about 10 percent of its financial support from local governments, but pointed out the remaining 90 percent comes from private sources.

McFlynn said most of the advice doled out by the organization’s attorney and two paralegals goes to naturalized U.S. citizens. The organization’s records indicate that the largest number of inquiries have been about landlord/tenant disputes.

“Roaring Fork Legal Services is for people who have a question that needs to be answered, but don’t have the money to retain a lawyer at retail rates,” McFlynn said. Fees are charged on sliding scale based on a person’s ability to pay.

As for the recent offer to meet with local immigrants, McFlynn said the plan is to interview thousands of people to find the ones who are entitled to be here and help them get their paperwork in order. The rest will be given information about the law, and some will be urged to return to their country of origin, McFlynn said.

Valley Alliance for Social and Environmental Responsibility will hold its first meeting from noon to 2:30 p.m. at the Pitkin County Library conference room.

For more information about attending the luncheon with Gov. Lamm, contact Steve Goldenberg at steve@goldenberg.com, or Jerri Nims at 925-6760, extension 3883.


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