Local Immigration Law “Useless”

Want more proof that immigration reform depends on federal legislation? Look no further than Colorado.

When local lawmakers decided “crack down” on immigration with new laws adopted in special legislative session held last summer, there were numerous consequences ranging from driver’s license woes to legal residents being evicted from their homes.

But now a Rocky Mountain News story reports just how ineffective one immigration measure is, and it was passed last year before the “special session.”A summary of the article: during the 2006 legislative session and in the heat of election season legislators passed a law to mandate reporting of suspected undocumented immigrants who were arrested or cited for crimes to federal authorities.

Undersheriff Mark Campbell said the county informs ICE about anyone in the jail who is foreign born or they suspect is foreign born.

“For example, a guy who comes in and speaks only Russian, but says he was born in Denver,” Campbell said.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said most counties gave ICE the names of anyone booked into the county jail born outside the U.S. The county submitted 1,548 names to ICE, the third highest in Colorado.

“We are not attempting to determine people’s immigration status,” Pelle said.
“Nobody has the time or training to try and sort it out.”

According to the story, ICE doesn’t have the resources to investigate the thousands of suspected arrestees reported by local officials–who are legally required to use their own resources to compile annual reports of how many individuals they reported to ICE.

In a follow-up article the Rocky reported on lawmaker reactions to the news:

Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, denounced the law as worthless.

He said the fact that it has not led to increased deportations demonstrates that illegal immigration remains a federal problem that a package of state laws will do little to solve.

“It’s a useless bill. It has led to no change,” he said. “We can have officers round up every illegal immigrant in the state but if ICE doesn’t step forward, it doesn’t matter.”

Federal officials are still poised to work on immigration reform despite a set back in the Senate earlier this month. And on the local level, expecting federal officials to investigate every suspected case of an undocumented immigrant is clearly not a realistic option.

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@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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