Immigration In The Legislature: What

What does the future hold for immigration laws that were passed last year in the heat of election season?

Only time will tell. They have made Colorado home to some of the toughest rules in the country. They’ve also contributed to consequences that even legislators are admitting to. According to an article written in the Fort Collins Rocky Mountain Chronicle by this author, Democrats may go about tweaking some of the bills passed in a special legislative session last summer:

“Some of the ramifications that we’re seeing is that this fall, down in the southeastern part of Colorado, a lot of the onions and potatoes were not picked because they couldn’t get enough workers into the fields,” says Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, who has been holding public hearings on the issue.

Riesberg believes that such problems may be addressed by the legislature this session, but he doesn’t see immigration having the same priority as it did last year.

Fort Collins Democratic Rep. John Kefalas wasn’t in office for the special session, but is beginning to experience the results.

“The intent was to prevent folks who were undocumented from getting public services, but we’re finding that it’s costing a lot more money at the local level as well as the state level to get this documentation from everyone who applies for public services,” Kefalas says. “What I’m hearing is that more and more immigrant families that are here legally are fearful, and I think there’s a potential for racial profiling, for example.”

Enter the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), a statewide group composed of more than 80 organizations, that will be looking to change laws federally and locally.

They’ve seen their share of problems. Especially with House Bill 1017 and Senate Bill 90, which are viewed as two of the most damaging state laws to come out of the General Assembly in 2006:

“They’re destructive because they create fear among our community,” [CIRC coordinator Julien Ross] says. “We have testimonies of racial profiling and discrimination. Hundreds of families have left Colorado because they’re afraid to go into public. They’re afraid of the police. They create a lot of confusion in the workplace, confusion not just for workers, but for employers.”

But as to how far local lawmakers will go on these new measures remains to be seen.

If anything, federal laws might change before the local ones do.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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