Jam Session - Legislators gather to pass a good but imperfect bill on services to illegals
Article by Fred Elbel, Defend Colorado Now, published in the Rocky Mountain News, July 15, 2006
Read the original article.
The last 30 days were an immigration reform roller-coaster ride. The Colorado Supreme Court twice denied the people of Colorado their right to vote on whether their tax dollars should be spent on those unlawfully in Colorado. Gov. Bill Owens, berating the court for its obvious political meddling, called a special legislative session that produced a mixed bag of bills.
Was it necessary to have a popular vote on the Defend Colorado Now initiative? The initiative, if referred by the legislature to the ballot, would have had to withstand a well-funded opposition campaign. If the ballot measure were passed by the voters, the legislature would have been able to implement the initiative next year after election cycle pressure had evaporated. A legal challenge might have taken the initiative, once it passed, yet again to the Supreme Court where it twice had been disqualified. In a nutshell, we have legislation now, and a bird in the hand is not all that bad.
This tough session gave credence to Otto von Bismarck's alleged quip that "If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made." Owens is to be commended for bringing together two polarized political parties on the issue - no easy task. Republicans have traditionally owned the immigration reform issue, and Democrats have been slow to acknowledge that the mass immigration invasion is a pressing populist concern of immense proportion.
In the heated, five-day special session, most Republicans fiercely supported the original charter of Defend Colorado Now and pressed to refer the initiative to the ballot for a November vote. Democrats typically opposed the referral, but indeed came to the table to draft immigration reform legislation.
The nearly 50,000 signatures obtained for the initiative made an unmistakable impact. Both political parties heard the people's voice - loud and clear - and responded accordingly.
The resulting bills probably were the best that could be obtained under the circumstances. They could have been more comprehensive, yet represent a net gain for immigration reform and a starting point for concerted action in the next legislative session.
HB 1023, the premier bill of the session, embodies the essence of the Defend Colorado Now initiative and prevents the state from issuing most services to illegal aliens over the age of 18. It is similar to Section 9 of the potent immigration reform legislation recently passed in Georgia. The bill has real teeth, mandating use of the federal SAVE program to determine eligibility for benefits.
HB 1017 goes beyond the scope of the original initiative, requiring employers to verify immigration status of potential employees. Though a good foundation toward necessary employer sanctions against hiring illegal aliens, it does not require use of the federal Basic Pilot program to verify immigration status. This serious flaw should be corrected in the next session.
Two measures will be referred to the voters in November: to limit tax deductions for illegal alien wages and to demand that Colorado's attorney general sue the federal government for enforcement of federal immigration laws. These measures, although notably different from the Defend Colorado Now initiative, will undoubtedly win the overwhelming support of Colorado voters in November.
Few realize mass immigration is driving U.S. population to double within the lifetimes of children born today. That will mean twice as many cars, houses, schools and prisons, twice the environmental impact, and twice the demand for oil which we are already extracting from other countries.
A serious solution to the immigration crisis must focus on enacting enforceable employer sanctions against hiring illegal aliens. Established federal laws prohibiting hiring of illegal aliens must be enforced. Equal application of the law is crucial - neither state nor private employers should be allowed an end-run.
The sovereign people of Colorado clearly are fed up with illegal immigration. Lest our elected officials forget, their unified voice was heard this year and will continue to resound well through the upcoming November election.
For more information:
New era for Colorado - Owens puts pen to tough immigration bills aimed at
identifying legal citizens, by Myung Oak Kim, Rocky Mountain News, August 1, 2006.
New era on immigration - Owens signs package of bills; effects felt today, by David Migoya, Denver Post, 8/1/2006.
Immigration law casts wide net - Effects to be felt all across state, local government, by Myung Oak Kim, Rocky Mountain News, July 29, 2006.
100,000 will have to prove status - State's clients must show legal residency, by Myung Oak Kim, Rocky Mountain News, July 28, 2006.
Legislators gather to pass a good but imperfect bill on services to illegals, Fred Elbel, Defend Colorado Now, Rocky Mountain News, July 15, 2006.
- DCN 2006 legislative summary, including a list of bills signed into law.
- DCN August 1 and July 12 news releases on the legislative session.
- For more information on bills, go to www.leg.state.co.us and then go to the Bills sections under the House and Senate.
- Information on the SAVE and Basic Pilot programs.
- Georgia legislation overview and comparison to Colorado legislation.
- Full Georgia legislation (or see this copy).
- DCN legislative perspective.
- My perspective on the legislative versus constitutional approach - by Dick Lamm.