DENVER (CBS4) – A bill being considered in the Colorado legislature this week would allow victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants in designated sanctuary cities to hold criminally liable those cities and their politicians who don’t enforce immigration laws.
It would also allow for to lawsuits as big as $2 million to be filed by those victims or their families.
The bill has made national news, become a blueprint for other states and temporarily put Colorado at ground zero in the immigration debate.
Rep. Dave Williams, the El Paso County Republican who is the bill’s sponsor, said two criminal cases in Denver in the last four months highlight the problem that exists.
Norlan Estrada-Reyes was deported, returned and arrested two more times before being charged in a deadly hit and run in October.
Ever Valles was allegedly wanted by immigration agents when he was released from Denver Jail and police say he killed a man earlier this month near a light rail station.
“I think those are perfect examples of what my bill will remedy,” Williams said.
“My goal is to make sure that our politicians are held accountable. If they’re going to create the environment they need to own it and they need to answer to those victims.”
On Wednesday, Chris Lazarus came to the state Capitol to testify in favor of the bill with her son’s ashes.
The 18-year-old died three years ago from heroin that Lazarus says he got from a Mexican cartel.
“I just think people need start being held accountable for laws they’re making,” Lazarus said.
Opponents of the bill say it’s not the job of local governments to enforce federal immigration law.
“We will reisist this bill,” said ACLU Colorado spokeswoman Denise Maes to a group of opponents on Wednesday.
Maes and others say it is racist and will hurt, not help, public safety.
“It forces people into shadows who are victims of crimes or eyewitness to crimes and (makes them) fear coming forward. It jeopardizes my safety, your safety, all our safety,” Maes said.
Late Wednesday the bill failed in a House committee controlled by Democrats by a 6-3 vote. The sponsor told CBS4 he wanted Democrats on record as opposing it.