Capitol review: 4 key immigrant bills passed, but a big one failed

Condemning the federal government's practice of separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, about 200 attended a rally east of City Park on Thursday evening in Denver. Similar rallies were held on Thursday in Pueblo and Aurora.
Activists rallied in Denver last year to condemning the federal government's practice of separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. (Photo by Alex Burness)

Editor’s note: The Indy is publishing a series of short stories reviewing the 2019 legislative session in Colorado. Here, we focus on immigration. We also wrote about opioids, climate change and criminal justice. Look for our story on voting/elections.

Many thousands of legal and unauthorized immigrants are living in fear in Colorado, in part the result of the White House’s aggressive stand on detainment and deportation.

With Democrats in power at the Capitol this session, lawmakers worked on several policies meant to provide some relief to the immigrant community. They were successful with several, but lost a key one: Gov. Jared Polis refused to support policies to limit the reach of federal immigration enforcement officers in Colorado.

Polis is expected to sign bills to provide basic, day-to-day relief for immigrants, but the notion of making systemic, statewide policy changes to thwart Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was a non-starter for him, and the legislature abandoned some sweeping reforms as a result.

Immigrant-related bills that passed

Deferred judgment: Imagine you’ve been charged with a low-level crime such as simple drug possession. A prosecutor offers you a deal: plead guilty and successfully complete your sentence — say, a couple years of probation or community service or maybe a rehabilitation course — and your case will be dismissed, with the record of the case sealed at the end of the probationary period.

This happens all the time in Colorado courts. It’s called deferred judgment. And there are plenty of immigrants who plead guilty to various low-level crimes because they’ve been advised that their records will be wiped clean once the sentence is satisfied. The problem this bill sought to resolve is that for immigrants — even those living here legally — those guilty pleas do not get wiped. And they can come back to haunt people and even potentially lead them to deportation.

Lawmakers Julie Gonzales and Kerry Tipper sponsored a bill to allow people to withdraw guilty pleas in cases where they made those pleas under the false assumption that their records would one day be wiped. In theory the bill, which passed the legislature and is pending the governor’s final signature, applies to all Coloradans. But it’s the immigrant community that will really benefit.

Driver’s licenses: Colorado first started issuing driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants in 2014. The idea is that having a driver’s license removes a massive source of stress for an unauthorized person who might otherwise be driving around in constant fear he or she will get arrested for driving without a license, which could easily lead to a week in detainment or even to deportation.

The program has led to the issuance of more than about 60,000 licenses. The problem is that there have been so few offices that issue the licenses that immigrants have often had to drive far distances or face heavy administrative backlogs. The legislature passed a bill that will expand the program to 10 offices — up from three — by 2020. It was sponsored by Republican Don Coram and Democrats Jonathan Singer, Dominick Moreno and Rochelle Galindo, and it’s currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

364 days: For immigrants residing legally in the United States, a criminal conviction or guilty plea resulting in a possible jail sentence of at least one year can be enormously problematic. A sentence longer than one year can make an immigrant susceptible to mandatory deportation.

Lawmakers passed a bill to reduce the maximum sentence for certain low-level offenses from one year to 364 days. Shaving one day off these sentences could change everything for affected immigrants, argued Gonzales and fellow Democrat Leslie Herod, the bill’s sponsors. The legislature agreed and so did the governor, who signed the bill into law.

The troubled effort to thwart ICE

A pair of bills that failed were attempts to protect immigrants from ICE by drawing clear lines about locations and circumstances that would be off limits to federal immigration officers.

The first of these efforts, known as Virginia’s Law, flamed out in dramatic fashion. Feelings were hurt, bridges were burned, activists were disappointed.

But lawmakers brought another bill, HB-1124. The bill did pass, but as a shell of what it was only a few weeks ago. It bans state law enforcement officers from detaining people beyond their scheduled date of release at the request of ICE. It also bans probation officers from releasing personal identifying information to ICE about a detainee, unless ICE has a warrant. Finally, it requires law enforcement officers to provide an “advisement of rights” to immigrants ahead of interviews with ICE.

That has everything to do with pushback from Polis, who opposes “sanctuary state” policies and has on multiple occasions expressed support for ICE as a legitimate law enforcement agency. His clear line in the sand on that front — it wasn’t so clear at first, but we now know much more about his thinking — is a political reality that immigrant rights advocates and their champions at the legislature will have to reckon with in 2020 and beyond.

3 COMMENTS

  1. THE STAMPEDE:
    Lets see, we have Democrat / Socialist / Activist / Lawyers in the Northern Triangle of South America & Mexico; even as you read this instructing the populations the “benefits” & laws of coming top the USA…..”credible fear.” Then you have a Democrat House saying the crisis is “manufactured” as literally thousands attack our border daily? National Sovereignty is a myth to Democrats. The crisis is manufactured…by the Democrats themselves. Make no mistake about this, Democrats want this to happen and never stop.. They will with hold support allowing as many illegal aliens to enter the country before assisting in border security (if ever). Democrats offer rewards, incentives so…..More caravans on the way.

    The current migration at our border is costing U.S taxpayers a Kings ransom. Fleeing persecution? or fleeing for freebies? they sure don’t stay in Mexico when they reach “safety” or ask or offered political asylum in Mexico. Why? because Mexico will give them NOTHING. So they make the long journey to our border, our generous Democrats, and our tax dollars. Notice how many have made the long, difficult, dangerous journey to our country 8-9 months pregnant? Give birth on American soil and the U.S. taxpayers will not only pay for the birth of you’re child but will also give you state government assistance.

    TPS / DACA
    To Democrats/Progressives/Socialists (whats the difference?) programs like Temporary Protective Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals (DACA) are permanent programs. There is nothing “temporary or deferred” about these programs to Democrats. These programs are designed to admit refugees (usually from the third world) then Democrats fight to keep them here permanently using the charge of racism, religion, guilt against anyone opposed. Simple formula works great.

    THE PRICE:
    It seems Democrats view U.S. citizens as acceptable collateral damage to their future long range goals of flooding the country with refugees & illegal aliens and having taxpayers paying the cost. Democrat politicians and their voters have put families at risk of being victimized by illegal aliens as in the cases Kate Steinly (nothing done) then, Mollie Tibbetts, (nothing done) Police Cpl. Ronil Singh, (nothing done) now Bambi Larson; butchered in her home, nothing will be done…who’s next? These victims would be alive today if our border was secured. Most of these killers have been deported numerous times. Bambi ‘s killer claimed “amnesty” to get into the country.

    Google search “illegal alien crime” or “victims.”

    Just a few examples of the more outrageous costs associated with illegal immigration, we will pass this burden on to our children & grand children as has been passed on to us.

    * City emergency services Taxpayer pay for every police, fire, paramedic service call for illegal aliens in their city. Taxpayers also pay for all hospital, emergency room treatments, ambulances, medications….everything. Hospital wait times for citizens are negatively impacted.

    *Cost of educating illegal aliens is staggering. From K-12 it costs taxpayers on average $122,000 for EACH illegal alien student. This does not include the millions spent on bilingual ED, instructors, special need children & day care. It is estimated nearly 100,000 illegal aliens graduate each year……you do the math. School class size are also negatively impacted by illegal aliens and our students suffer as a result.

    *Taxpayers in some states are funding “in state college tuition” discounts for illegal aliens. (AZ voted to terminate this taxpayer expense.) Cost to taxpayers over a billion dollars annually.

    *About one in five inmates in federal prison are foreign-born, & more than 90% of those are in the U.S illegally. This does not include local jails and state prisons. At roughly $24,000 per year expense per inmate.

    *$3Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate, process Illegal aliens in the criminal justice system.

    *$2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on is spent on food assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, & taxpayer funded school lunches. Visit youtube search “cost of illegal immigration.”

    *Mexico received 33 billion last year in remittance from our country. $120 billion total was sent out of the United States in total remittance last year.

    *Every child birth by illegal aliens in the U.S is paid for with tax dollars.In the US, the average cost to have a baby without complications during delivery, is $10,808, which can increase to $30,000 when factoring in care provided before and after pregnancy (July 9, 2018 google.)

    * Section 8 housing. Illegal aliens take full advantage of this program. Citizens & their families in poverty in many cases wait years behind non citizens for emergency housing.

  2. Democrat 2020 Platform & Goals:

    -Open Borders.
    -Sanctuary Cities.
    -Elimination of ICE
    -Disarming Americans.
    -Infanticide.
    -Voting rights for illegal aliens.
    -Pack the courts with radical liberal judges (Like the 9th circuit)
    -Increase refugee’s from the third world.
    -Illegal aliens allowed to hold public office.
    -Socialism.
    -Free Abortions for all (Taxpayer funded)
    -The green new deal.
    -End of Electoral College
    -Free Medicare care for all including non citizens (taxpayer funded)
    -Raise Minimum Wage
    -Have adolescents vote
    -!00% free college for all, including non citizens. (tax payer funded)
    -Reparations for every race “harmed” by the white man.
    -Convicts, Terrorists voting.
    -Susie & Bobby using the same restrooms.
    -Late term abortions.
    -Pay check for every person in the US even if they choose not to work.

    Sources: Straight from the Democrat’s mouths.

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