DENVER (AP) – A Colorado Republican abandoned an attempt to mimic Arizona’s divisive immigration law, saying Monday he worried legal challenges would burden taxpayers.
But it’s only the first round in what promises to be a long battle at the Capitol on illegal immigration, including a similar proposal pending in the Senate.
Rep. Randy Baumgardner’s House Bill 1107 would have given law enforcement the authority to arrest anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally and required people to carry their immigration documents.
Baumgardner asked a legislative committee Monday afternoon to indefinitely postpone his bill, saying that although the proposal was scaled back, “we still could not get around some of the problems in terms of possible litigation.”
“At this time we just felt like it was not something that we wanted to burden the taxpayers with, in lieu of the way the economy is,” he said. “I do believe we do need to continue to address illegal immigration in our state.”
A House Agriculture, Livestock, & Natural Resources Committee unanimously voted to kill the bill.
Democrats have said Republicans will face a tough path with their illegal immigration proposals in the Senate, where Democrats have a 20-15 majority. Republicans have a one-vote majority in the House.
Republican Sen. Kent Lambert is carrying a bill that, like Baumgardner’s proposal, would give law enforcement the authority to arrest people suspected of being in the country illegally. Lambert said he plans to proceed with his bill and Republican Rep. David Balmer promised to support the proposal if it gets to the House.
Lambert’s bill is scheduled to be heard in a Senate committee Wednesday, along with another proposal from Republican Sen. Ted Harvey that would require nongovernmental state employers to use E-Verify to confirm a worker’s legal status.
Balmer also vowed to include elements of Arizona-style legislation into one of his bills if Republican proposals fail along the way. Balmer is sponsoring a bill that would withhold grants and other state funding from jurisdictions that refuse to participate in the federal Secure Communities program. The program identifies illegal immigrants through fingerprinting when they’re arrested. Balmer’s bill was being heard Monday.
The plethora of proposals prompted dozens of immigrant rights advocates to rally decrying the bills at the Capitol. In honor of Valentine’s Day, protesters held heart-shaped signs that read, “Racist Laws Break My Heart.”
“Arizona copycat laws would break the hearts of thousands of Coloradoans — families, children, business owners, tourists,” said Julien Ross, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “We want to keep our hearts together. We want to keep love in the air and say no Arizona copycat laws, yes to a strong Colorado.”
Other pending proposals would require judges to consider a person’s immigration statues when setting bail and another bill that addresses identity theft. Under that bill, people could be charged with identity theft, even if they don’t know that the information they’re using belongs to another person.
The bill is a response to a state Supreme Court decision last year that said a man who used a stranger’s Social Security number to get a car loan did not commit criminal impersonation. The Court said prosecutors must prove that a person knew he was using another person’s identifying information in order to be guilty of criminal impersonation.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)