Colo. lawmakers pass 'tough' bills on immigration
Jul. 11, 2006
DENVER - Colorado lawmakers ended a five-day special session on illegal
immigration with a resounding approval of several bills that Democrats call the
toughest in the nation and Republicans say don't go far enough.
The legislation sent late Monday to Republican Gov. Bill Owens would force a
million people receiving state or federal aid in Colorado to verify their
It would deny most non-emergency state benefits to undocumented immigrants
18 years old and older - forcing people to prove legal residency when applying
for benefits or renewing their eligibility. The state Senate passed it 22-13 and
the House voted 48-15 in favor. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats. "At
the end of the day, everybody who serves in this building as senators or
representatives knows we're making Colorado history," said the bill's sponsor,
Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald. "We want to be able to look in the mirror and
say we did legislation that is tough, enforceable and humane."
Republicans said the legislation still left glaring loopholes, including
allowing benefits for minors and denying voters the chance to have a direct say
on the issue.
The bill would apply to Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, energy
assistance programs and aging and adult services. Owens has said an estimated
50,000 undocumented immigrants could be thrown out of those programs.
"It simply puts teeth into existing federal regulations," Owens said.
Sen. Dan Grossman, one of four Democrats to vote against the measure, said:
"I don't think the poor people of the state of Colorado or businesses of the
state of Colorado should have to pay because we want to play politics with
Congress has been debating immigration reform for months, sparking
demonstrations this spring involving millions of undocumented immigrants and
their supporters in several cities. With no major federal changes yet, however,
some local governments have been taking matters into their own hands.
Last month, the City Council of Hazleton, Pa., tentatively approved a measure
that would revoke the business licenses of companies that employ undocumented
immigrants; impose $1,000 fines on landlords who rent to undocumented
immigrants; and make English the city's official language.
"Illegal immigrants are destroying the city," Hazleton's Republican Mayor Lou
Barletta said then. "I don't want them here, period."
Two Florida communities, Palm Bay and Avon Park, are considering similar
Idaho's Canyon County took a different tack - it filed a racketeering lawsuit
against agricultural companies accused of hiring undocumented immigrants. A
federal judge threw the case out, but county commissioners voted to appeal.