Balmer introduces ‘Secure Communities’ enforcement bill

Colorado State House Republicans targeting illegal immigration have another bill to rally around. Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial, Tuesday introduced a bill (pdf) that would cut state funding from cities refusing to participate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement program called “Secure Communities.” Balmer’s bill also targets individual Coloradans who harbor or transport illegal immigrants.

According to the bill summary, local governments that do not participate in ICE’s Secure Communities initiative would be banned from receiving local government grants, severance tax funds, local government impact funds and cigarette fund dollars.

The Secure Communities initiative ensures that everyone arrested and booked has their fingerprints checked not only with the FBI criminal records, but with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration records. If an individual matches the DHS’s records, ICE officials are authorized to determine the proper actions depending on a number of factors.

In addition to compelling Colorado local governments to participate in the Secure Communities initiative, the bill makes it a class 1 misdemeanor to transport, conceal, harbor or shield a known illegal immigrant in the state. It also stipulates that if 10 or more individuals are involved in the incident the crime becomes a class 6 felony.

Former Gov. Bill Ritter announced on Jan. 5 that Colorado will join the voluntary Secure Communities initiative along with 35 other states. Ritter’s decision has the support of now Gov. John Hickenlooper.

While Ritter decided to join the initiative, currently counties are not forced to participate. However, this bill would compel counties to participate by cutting off their access to state dollars if they do not.

Balmer was not available for immediate comment on the bill.

“Secure Communities is an effective law enforcement tool that will fill a gap in state, local and federal enforcement and help us overcome well-recognized challenges in our public safety network,” Gov. Ritter said at the time.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-CO2, however, lashed out at the decision to sign onto the George W. Bush era program, calling it “draconian.” He said what was needed was comprehensive immigration reform.

Polis told the Colorado Independent, at the time, he had consistently tried to discourage Governor Ritter from participating in the program. “This does nothing to fix the immigration situation and it will lead to an increase in crime.”

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