Latino Republicans and immigrant rights groups react with fury to immigration bill

An Arizona-style immigration bill introduced in Colorado yesterday has met with fierce resistance from immigrant rights groups.

The long expected immigration bill by Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, sparked a firestorm of condemnation from local civil rights groups.

SB11-054 (pdf), which comes on the heals of an announcement of a bill promoted by Democrats to provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, seems almost certain to die in the Democratically controlled Senate.

While the bill states that police officers may arrest individuals for immigration violations where there is probable cause to suspect they have committed a felony or are subject to immigration violation proceedings, the bill creates an overarching allowance for police officers to arrest anyone who is in the country illegally.

“A law enforcement officer may arrest a person without a warrant…if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has willfully failed to register with the federal government pursuant to 8 U.S.C. sec. 1301,” the bill states.

“We are against the bill,” said Steve Rodriguez, Colorado director of SOMOS Republicans, a national organization of Latino Republicans. “If they can arrest people without a warrant just because they think that person may be in the country illegally, then they can go to your house if they suspect you are an illegal immigrant.”

He predicted that if the bill becomes law it would lead to racial profiling and costly litigation. He said it would also undermine community policing efforts.

Rodriguez was bothered by the fact that Lambert and other legislators have been to Arizona to meet with Russell Pearce, one of the authors of that state’s anti-immigration legislation. “They’ve even met with FAIR (the Federation for American Immigration Reform), which has white supremacist leanings. If they want to have an honest debate on the issue, they should have talked to other groups.

“I am extremely concerned that the Republican Party in Colorado is being taken over by these extreme groups. A bill like this would tarnish the state’s reputation at a time when we are trying to attract jobs, which should be the primary job of the legislature right now,” Rodriguez said.

The federal law requires all aliens to register and be fingerprinted by the federal government and carry a certification of alien registration with them at all times.

Assigned to the state veterans and military affairs committee the bill will first face the votes of Democratic Senators Rollie Heath, Bob Bacon, Betty Boyd, and Republican Bill Cadman. Cadman, along with a host of other Republican Senators, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, said that he did not want to commit to a vote before reading the legislation and hearing testimony on the bill.

Bacon did however indicate that it was likely he would vote for the recently introduced tuition equity act that would allow undocumented immigrants access to in-state tuition.

“It depends on the specific language of the bill, but more than likely I am going to vote for it,” Bacon said. “Again I have to see the bill and hear the testimony.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office told the Denver Post yesterday that the law posed troubling constitutional issues that have Arizona residents questioning their resolve on their immigration legislation.

While House Sponsor David Balmer, R-Centennial, said, “Our bill is a serious effort to crack down on dangerous illegal aliens who have committed aggravated felonies. We are trying specifically to go after those illegal aliens who have an ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) order out on them.”

Activists groups also spoke up as the clear Republican charge to more strictly regulate immigration has begun to take shape.

“ Rather than pushing immigrants further into the shadows, as Senate Bill 54 would do, Colorado should embrace policies that build trust and cooperation between immigrant communities and local and state law enforcement. Such community policing is essential to victims and witnesses reporting and helping to solve crimes and ensuring overall public safety,” said Julien Ross, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition

“We hope and expect this Arizona copycat bill to fail in the Colorado Senate. However, in the hearing process, we Iook forward to having a civil, informed, and constructive dialogue about a vision for responsible immigration enforcement that will preserve family unity, economic wellbeing, and public safety.” Ross said.

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