The House Judiciary Committee gave its blessing Thursday night to a bill that would prohibit state or local governments from cooperating with the federal government when it attempts to identify or arrest people based on their race, ethnicity, immigration status or religious affiliation.
The bill, which passed on a 7-4 party line vote with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed, is the latest in efforts by Democrats at the state capitol to send a message to President Trump regarding his immigration orders.
In January, House Democrats passed a resolution that asked the president to rescind his Jan. 27 executive order barring visa holders from seven mostly-Muslim countries from entering the United States and blocking any refugee, even those with visas, from coming to this country. The measure died in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Thursday’s bill, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Joe Salazar of Thornton and Daneya Esgar of Pueblo, was co-sponsored by 33 of the chamber’s remaining 35 Democrats. Only Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran of Denver and Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp of Arvada weren’t on the list.
The judiciary committee hearing was in marked contrast to a hearing held three weeks ago on a bill that would hold elected officials liable for so-called “sanctuary city” policies. The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs, who is half-Latino and identifies as Latino, would have allowed victims of crime committed by “illegal aliens” to sue those elected officials. The bill’s hearing went on until almost midnight with hours of passionate testimony on both sides.
The hearing on the Salazar/Esgar bill, by contrast, included few in opposition. Most of the witnesses spoke in support, with many asking the committee not to repeat the mistakes of the past, such as the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.
The proposal was named after Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr, who opposed the internment of Japanese-Americans, although he also felt it was his patriotic duty to follow directives from Washington, D.C. That led to the Granada War Relocation Center, also known as Camp Amache, east of Lamar.
“This bill, just like the governor it was named after, protects Coloradans from the overreach and terrorizing of the federal government,” Salazar told the committee.
Iman Jodeh, who spoke on behalf of the Colorado Muslim Society, said “I am the face of this bill.” Jodeh, who is the daughter of refugees, told lawmakers they have a responsibility to protect all Americans. “I am a Muslim, a faith leader, a community activist, small business owner and a lecturer at the University of Denver. These are all things afforded me simply because I’m an American. My whole life, I have pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.”
But Jodeh also has first-hand experience on what happens to Muslims in other countries. “As an American citizen, I have been held and detained in a government building for nine hours because of my religion. I have looked down the barrel of a tank because of my nationality. I have been hit with a machine gun, shot and tear-gassed. All because of my religion. I’ve had to flee a war zone because of my religion. Don’t bring that to the United States.”
Republicans raised concerns that the bill might be unconstitutional, although they disagreed with the president’s stated interest in a Muslim registry.
The measure moves on to the full House for debate.
Feature photo of Rep. Joe Salazar and Jo Ann Fujioka by Allen Tian