The state has one of the higher rates of illegal immigrants – 6.5% of the labor force, well above the 4.9% average for the country. Washington delegation members embrace aggressive anti-immigrant positions; the legislature has passed new policing laws; yet on March 25, 50,000 people showed up for a pro immigration rally in Denver.
Congressman Tom Tancredo, Chairman of the 97-member House Immigration Reform Caucus, attacked the Senate’s amnesty bill. According one profile of him, Tancredo believes that “immigration is a life-or-death issue in the culture war to save America”.
At the federal level, Senator Allard voted against the Senate’s immigration bill. Senator Salazar did not vote. A reportied by the Rocky Mountain News, The state legislature passed and Governor Bill Owens signed a bill to create a small immigration enforcement unit in the state police, and to require state contractors to sign up for the federal government’s online program to check a worker’s immigration status. Meanwhile, Denver Mayor Frederico Pena has been organizing a pro-immigration group.
Gov. Bill Owens this week signed into law bills that will create an immigration unit in the Colorado State Patrol and require state contractors to sign up for an online federal program that checks a worker’s immigration status.
Senate Bill 225, sponsored by Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, pays for the state trooper unit of 12 officers this year and 24 next year. They will receive training on human trafficking, the crime of sneaking an illegal immigrant into the country for the purposes of forced labor or prostitution.
According to the Rocky Mountain News, the new state police unit will respond to immigration cases and work with authorities from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE will train the officers. Supposedly the unit’s focus will be on trafficking, not going after the illegal workers themselves. The verification program “allows the state to cancel contracts with employers who are found to knowingly hire illegal immigrants. “ this is pretty weak, if the state has to prove that the employerswere aware.
Earlier, a law was enacted that requires police to report suspected illegal immigrants arrested for crimes other than domestic violence or minor traffic violations to immigration authorities.
Also Tuesday, former Denver Mayor Federico Peña outlined his position about efforts in Washington to fix the immigration system.
In a speech to the City Club, Peña said he supports increased security at the Mexican and Canadian borders, better enforcement of laws that punish employers who hire illegal immigrants, and a way for illegal immigrants who don’t have criminal records to earn citizenship. He said he also supports ‘biometric’ identification cards on which immigrants would put their fingerprints or other genetic marker on the cards, making them less vulnerable to counterfeiting.
But he also helped to organize Keep Colorado Safe, which was formed to oppose a ballot initiative that would deny most government services to illegal immigrants. He called the measure ‘mean-spirited’ and extremely expensive and complicated to implement.