They keep talking about passing MORE laws, illegals are already breaking DOZENS of laws
they are just stalling, the only thing that will make them act is failure at the ballot box
unless the incumbents are thrown out of their office at the next elections nothing will be done
The most important thing to our lawmakers is being re-elected, they don't care about your family
they don't care about your retirement, medical care, cost of living except where it effects their election
If we won't vote OUT the ones that don't deal with the illegals NOTHING will be done
Caught in the middle
Bills take aim at Durango policy on illegal immigrants
January 29, 2006
Jesse Harlan Alderman
Herald Staff Writer
As lawmakers from Washington to Denver take aim at illegal immigration, several of their proposals place Durango in the crosshairs.
Proposed legislation and Durango
U.S. House of Representatives
•H.R. 4437 - Withholds reimbursement for the incarceration of illegal immigrants from cities like Durango that do not require local police to report illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
Cuts federal grants to police forces that do not cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Institutes criminal penalties of up to five years in jail for groups, charities or individuals that "assist, encourage, direct or induce a person to reside in or remain in the United States, or to attempt to reside in or remain in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact such a person" is an illegal immigrant.
Status: Passed; Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, voted in favor.
•S. 1438 - Reaffirms that any city prohibiting local police from "enforcing federal immigration laws or from assisting or cooperating with federal immigration law enforcement" is already subject to punishment under existing federal law.
Status: Not yet debated; co-sponsored by Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Loveland.
•S. 1033 - No specific punishment for "sanctuary cities" and no criminal penalties for organizations that aid illegal immigrants.
Status: Not yet debated; co-sponsored by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Denver.
•S.B. 06-090 - Prohibits any local government in Colorado from passing any ordinance or policy that would limit a police officer, local official or local government employee from cooperating with federal immigration officials.
Requires any police officer, local official or local government employee who has probable cause to believe that a person is an illegal immigrant to report the person to federal immigration officials.
Prohibits a local government that violates the above provision from receiving any grants administered by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
Status: Not yet debated.
•H.B. 06-1101 - Requires any peace officer, after making an arrest, to perform an immigration status check. Officer must turn over all illegal immigrants to federal immigration officers.
Status: Not yet debated
•H.B. 06-1134 - Requires the sheriff of each Colorado county and the governing body of each city or town to sign an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. The agreement states that federal officials will train all county sheriff’s officers and local police officers to identify, process, and when appropriate, detain illegal immigrants.
Status: Not yet debated.
•Place a referendum on the November ballot that would deny all non-emergency services to illegal immigrants in Colorado.
Allow any Colorado resident to sue the state, county, city or political subdivision of the state that refuses to deny such services.
Status: Requires 68,000 signatures and yes votes from 44 state representatives and 24 state senators.
Bills before Congress and the state Legislature would strike a Durango policy that critics say harbors illegal immigrants. The federal bill proposes up to five years in jail for advocates such as Los Compañeros, the local group that assists illegal immigrants with housing or legal aid.
What's more, a statewide coalition is gaining momentum for a November ballot referendum denying all non-emergency services to illegal immigrants in Colorado.
Immigration foes have targeted Durango and several dozen cities across the nation that may be offering safe haven for illegal immigrants. In 2004, Durango's City Council unanimously passed a resolution pledging that police and city officials will not use resources" to turn over illegal immigrants to federal officials unless they commit crimes.
City Councilor Doug Lyon said the resolution paints a bull's-eye on Durango.
"I don't believe it is appropriate for local policies to take positions that jeopardize our police or place the city itself in jeopardy of lawsuits or put the city in violation of federal law," he said. Lyon was not a councilor when the resolution passed.
Eddie Soto, co-coordinator of Los Compañeros, disagreed.
Durango officers are not equipped to serve as border police, he said. Soto also applauded the councilors for sheltering immigrants from a "climate of hate." The bill pending in Congress, he said, would darken that climate by turning immigrant advocates into lawbreakers.
"If you help someone who is in pain, who has basic human needs, you are going to be a criminal," he said.
"One thing we've never done and hope we never have to do is ask for documentation before helping someone. We very much always believed, as American citizens, we did not have to carry ID just because we have brown skin."
National debate writ small
According to the Bell Policy Center, a liberal think tank in Denver, between 200,000 and 250,000 illegal immigrants live in Colorado.
No such figures, official or unofficial, exist for Durango. But Soto said the city attracts a significant population of illegal immigrants with low-paying jobs in construction and tourism.
Even though Durango is some 500 miles from the Mexican border, police have stopped vans full of illegal immigrants. Smugglers, Soto said, travel U.S. Highway 160 to evade the heavy patrol of more frequently traveled routes.
In many ways, Durango, however remote, is the national immigration debate in microcosm. For that reason, nearly every immigration measure before state and federal lawmakers stands to affect the city.
HB 4437, a sweeping bill that passed the U.S. House in December, would bar federal reimbursement to Durango for the incarceration of illegal immigrants. Lawmakers threatened penalties for cities, like Durango, that do not require local police to report illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
City Councilor Renee Parsons said that the 2004 measure is a resolution, not an ordinance with the force of law. The resolution is "a sense of the council," she said. Supporters also note that the resolution intentionally clarifies the supremacy of state and federal law over local preferences.
For Councilor Lyon, it is not the council's place to form its own immigration policy. The council, he said, should rescind the resolution as soon as it imperils Durango legally or financially.
"If a state law is passed that makes Durango out of compliance," he said, "I will put it back in compliance."
In February, the U.S. Senate will take up a bill similar to that passed by the House in December. The bill, S. 1438, affirms existing law that demands local police cooperation with federal immigration officials. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Loveland, is co-sponsor.
"The senator has always opposed any amnesty for people who have crossed our border illegally," spokeswoman Angela de Rocha said.
Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Denver, is backing a different bill that includes no language to punish immigrant-friendly cities like Durango.
"Senator Salazar believes punitive measures that are spiteful and petty and don't do anything to rationally reform our national immigration laws are counterproductive," Salazar spokesman Cody Wertz said.
Compañeros on hot seat
A provision in the same House bill that threatens to cut funds to Durango also proposes stiff criminal penalties, including jail, for organizations that assist illegal immigrants.
Soto, of Los Compañeros, compared the bill, HB 4437, to the Fugitive Slave Act, a maligned 1850 law that penalized Northerners for not helping to capture escaped slaves.
If passed, the law will have a chilling effect on charities and church groups in particular, he said.
Jayne Mazur, director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Pueblo, which includes Durango, said the Bible instructs church groups to help anyone in need.
Charities sponsored by the Catholic Church will not turn away illegal immigrants in soup lines, medical clinics or housing searches, she said, even if Diocese officials must break the law.
"To ask someone for their legal status would compromise our belief system and Catholic teachings," Mazur said. "We won't do it."
Both Mazur and Soto chided Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, for voting in favor of HB 4437.
"We're outraged," Soto said, "and he's starting to hear it."
John Salazar's chief of staff said the congressman voted for the bill even though it contained offensive provisions, in part because the bill is expected to die in the Senate.
"We have assurances from the Senate that the House bill is going nowhere and will not even be considered," said Ron Carelton. "He believes it's important to move something forward and keep the prospect for real comprehensive reform alive."
Back in Denver
At the state Capitol, a bill now navigating the state Senate would nullify Durango's "sanctuary" policy. The measure, S.B. 090 sponsored by state Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, also would require local police to hand suspected illegal immigrants over to federal immigration officials, as long as an officer has "probable cause."
If Durango kept its resolution on the books, the bill would suspend all grants from the Department of Local Affairs. "If municipalities choose not to cooperate, they can do it on their own dime," Wiens said.
While State Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez, does not support Durango's immigration policy, he resisted "sledgehammer" legislation like Wiens' measure. Immigration needs to be fixed in Washington, rather than by piecemeal state laws, Larson said.
"I disagreed with the action the city took. It's cutting the hands of law enforcement," he said. "As much as I am enamored with the hard-working immigrants here illegally, there is a certain element here for other purposes, whether it's being mules for drugs or other crimes."
Two measures before the state House also would force local police departments, willing or not, into combat against illegal immigration.
State Rep. Bill Crane, R-Arvada, is pushing H.B. 1101, which requires any officer making an arrest to check immigration status.
Another measure, H.B. 1134 sponsored by 21 House Republicans, would compel all county sheriffs and city police to train with federal immigration officials to "identify, process and when appropriate, detain" illegal immigrants.
Even before the City Council adopted its resolution, the Durango Police Department supported a don't-ask-don't-tell policy toward illegal immigrants, Sgt. Tony Archuleta said in December.
Archuleta, a 29-year department veteran, said officers never attempt to determine the immigration status of a suspect. In fact, he said, federal pressure to crack down on illegal immigrants would tax the department.
Dan Bender, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff's Office, said the City Council "chose to take a different course" than the county. Sheriff's deputies alert immigration officials to those suspected of being illegal immigrants, he said.
"We don't disregard state and federal laws," Bender said. "But it is also not one of our priorities to determine whether a person is in the country illegally unless, of course, it is determined in the course of a criminal investigation."
Besides state and federal efforts, Defend Colorado Now, a citizens group based in Lakewood, wants a referendum on the November ballot denying non-emergency state services to illegal immigrants.
The ballot question, Proposition 55, also would allow citizens to sue any county, city or organization receiving state funds that fails to comply.
To secure a place on the ballot, the measure requires 68,000 signatures and favorable votes from 44 state representatives and 24 state senators.
State Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, said he had no problem with the intention of the ballot question. But the lawmaker said he, along with the state Legislature's legal staff, is concerned with enforcement.
Isgar questioned how water, recreation and transportation districts would identify illegal immigrants among thousands of clients. And he is vexed by the effect the referendum could have on charities receiving state funds.
"I don't have a problem with the concept," he said. "This could require a lot of expense, potential lawsuits and enforcement problems. We don't want to shut a soup kitchen down just because it may be serving people who aren't here legally."
He added: "I don't think we're so callous as to not feed hungry people."