Bill to Advance State’s Crackdown on Illegal Immigrants Flops in Committee

A bill to address ID requirements for people seeking public benefits hears emotional testimony and is postponed indefinitely on a 7-4 vote. A bill meant to “clarify” a recent Colorado immigration law died in committee on Thursday, when it was decided the addition would only make a problematic bill even more so.

Rep. Kent Lambert, R-El Paso, sponsored HB 1326, which would have required all organizations to verify the legal status of any person who applies for “federal or state or local public benefits, regardless of the source of moneys for the benefits.” Lambert contended his bill merely ironed out confusing language from HB 1023, which passed during the 2006 special legislative session.

HB 1023 was meant to prevent undocumented immigrants from accessing government-funded services, with exceptions for emergency and prenatal care, soup kitchens, and immunizations. The law’s implementation has meant headaches for state and private agencies struggling to comply with the new provisions. The language of Lambert’s bill drew representatives from the ACLU, the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition to oppose the measure, which they said would hurt U.S. citizens by requiring people to show identification even for services funded with private money.

“This bill would have a huge chilling effect on our community,” testified Julie Gonzales of Padres y Jovenes Unidos, a Denver group concerned with equality in education and immigrant rights. “We have deep concerns about the way 1023 has criminalized people in our community and caused mass confusion for citizens who for some reason can’t get an ID. It’s been very problematic.”

Julie Gefke of the Denver Department of Human Services testified that HB 1023 has cost her office thousands of hours trying to figure out the new rules. She opposed Lambert’s addition saying it would only make it harder for lawful citizens to access benefits they are entitled to.

“The questions and issues that I deal with most are citizens that can’t meet the ID requirements — often because they don’t have a birth certificate,” Gefke said.

Tom Carillo, who was born in Colorado and has owned a home in the Congress Park neighborhood of Denver for 20 years, told lawmakers how difficult it can be for citizens to obtain a state ID. Carillo told the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee about his months-long struggle to obtain a Colorado ID card.

Carillo let his driver’s license expire in the mid-1990s after a medical condition forced him to stop driving. He obtained a Colorado ID card, but when he went to renew it, he was told he didn’t have the necessary documents to do so. He tried to apply for a passport, but his application was rejected.

“I was denied a valid ID because I didn’t have a valid ID,” Carillo said. “I have spent six months, hours and hours and well over $1,000, and I still don’t have a valid Colorado ID. Please do not add additional barriers to those who most need your help.”

Lawmakers obliged Carillo’s request — passing a motion to postpone indefinitely HB 1326 on a vote of 7-4.

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