By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado would have it’s own version of a “green card” under legislation at the state capitol.

It would be called a “purple card.”

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Some state lawmakers say if Congress won’t reform the immigration system, they will. Their bill would allow anyone who has paid state taxes for at least two years and hasn’t had a felony in three years to be eligible for legal status.

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For Llani Duenes the bill would be life-changing.

“It will help me to stay in this country longer.”

She came here from El Salvador 18 years ago and, under a new federal policy, will lose her temporary protected status in 18 months. The bill would give her and hundreds of thousands of people like her permanent legal status in Colorado.

Omar Gomez (credit: CBS)

Omar Gomez is leading the purple card movement, which he says is good for everyone.

“It benefits the state because they know who’s working where, and we know for sure they’re paying taxes,” Gomez said.

State Rep. Dan Pabon, the bill’s sponsor, says the state has to step in.

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd interviews Rep. Dan Pabon (credit: CBS)

“The alternative is two-fold. One, you’re either going to be relying on the social safety net that is going to have a lot of people asking for food banks and all these other things; or you’re going to have folks who are still going to work, but just work in the black market and neither of those is acceptable policy for us in Colorado.”

The bill would make Colorado the first state in the country with its own legal work permit.

Rep. Patrick Neville says with good reason.

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd interviews Rep. Patrick Neville
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“Because it’s unconstitutional. It’s against federal law. We’re a nation of laws and this is nothing more than them politically pandering to those here illegally,” he said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper also has concerns.

“I think a purple card has a lot of problems, or there would be a lot details to work out.”

He says the state may be better to enforce current laws.

Gov. John Hickenlooper (credit: CBS)

“Anything like that, if it was going to be considered, should go along with much more aggressive enforcement of people paying their workers under the table.”

Under the bill, the state would protect employers who hire those with purple cards from federal penalties. Exactly how they would do so is unclear.

The Colorado Department of Labor would be charged with developing the program.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.