DENVER - Colorado has yanked a Spanish-language guide for new immigrants from a state Web site following criticism that it encouraged illegal aliens to take advantage of government benefits.Gov. Bill Owens, who had earlier endorsed the guide posted on the state education site, said Wednesday he wasn't aware some of its advice seemed targeted at those living in Colorado illegally. It was removed Monday after Rep. Tom Tancredo, a fellow Republican and outspoken proponent of tighter controls on immigration, wrote to Owens criticizing it.
The pamphlet contains information about everything from how to get a driver's license to domestic abuse laws. It also says health clinics don't have to see immigration papers before providing treatment and that children born in the United States can qualify for certain health benefits even if their parents are here illegally.The medical director of a Colorado clinic that helped put the pamphlet together said he was disappointed.
"I think it's folding to political pressure and fear-mongering," said Tillman Farley of the Salud Family Health Centers, based in Fort Morgan.He said the advice is aimed at legal immigrants but conceded the information could be used by those here illegally. He said it merely explains existing law and that all Colorado residents benefit if, for example, the children of immigrants are immunized and pregnant women get medical care.
Farley said it's not fair to compare the pamphlet to the comic book guide published by the Mexican government giving tips to people who decide to enter the United States illegally. He said the Colorado pamphlet doesn't encourage people to immigrate but simply helps those who are already here become familiar with American customs and laws."It's just like the 'Welcome to Colorado' sign on the highway. It doesn't exclude anybody," he said.
Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinosa said clinics like Farley's have an interest in defending illegal immigration because they receive federal aid to care for immigrants. He said illegal immigrants don't pay income taxes, and the sales taxes they contribute doesn't cover the government services they use."Clearly they don't put in what they take out," he said.
Owens, who signed a bill into law Wednesday that restores Medicaid benefits to legal immigrants, said he supports helping newcomers who pay taxes and play by the rules."I want to encourage those who are here legally to assimilate and become part of American life," he said.