City’s immigrant outreach angers some
LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) – What to do about illegal immigration is fast becoming one of the hottest topics for state and national political parties.And now Longmont is getting a taste of that heated debate at a local level after creating a new city position: immigration integration coordinator.The post isn’t even filled yet, and already criticism is coming in. The position is being paid for by a grant from the Colorado Trust, an organization that believes communities must change to help accommodate new immigrants and that communities can benefit from the cultures and contributions brought by immigrants.Says the trust: “Increasingly, however, immigrant integration is being viewed as a two-way street that involves adaptation not only on the part of immigrants themselves, but also on the part of the community where they now live.”The job posting itself says the successful candidate will “create a more inclusive Boulder County by fostering mutual learning between the immigrant and non-immigrant communities.”The salary for the new city position, which is funded for three years, will be up to $50,000. The job will focus on both illegal and legal immigrants.
Census figures say that about 8.6 percent of Colorado’s population was born somewhere else, with about 26,218 foreign-born people living in Boulder County in 2000. Statistics about the county’s population of illegal immigrants were unavailable, but it’s that portion of the immigrant population that seems to draw the most attention from critics. Divided townsSeveral people have contacted the city to complain about the new position.”This is a disgrace,” William Kennedy of Louisville e-mailed to the Longmont City Council last month when the job was posted. “This open-arms policy toward illegal immigrants will ruin your town. You should be spending the money to put them on a bus and ship them home.”The Daily Times-Call reviews every e-mail sent to the council; this is the first time in at least a year anyone has commented on a job posting.Wrote Kennedy: “They will turn your town into the Third World country they came from because they do not care about or respect American culture and traditions. Feel free to call me to discuss this outrage further.”Kennedy’s attitude toward immigrants is exactly the kind of thing the coordinator position is intended to help address, city and Colorado Trust officials said.
While not taking a position on immigration, the Colorado Trust is simply trying to help communities address reality, said Susan Downs-Karkos, a senior program officer with the organization.”We could pretend and ignore the changes that have happened in our communities. But, long term, that’s probably not the best strategic approach,” she said. “We don’t think it’s in the best community interest to become fragmented … to have people who don’t feel connected to each other.”Extra pay This year, state lawmakers are expected to make immigration and illegal immigration major topics of discussion. On Wednesday, a group of Republican legislators convened a hearing to take testimony on the issues of illegal immigration.”I don’t think Greeley will be anything but a Mexican town in five years if we don’t do something,” Joy Breuer told members of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado.Legislators repeatedly warned that the hearing was about immigration, not discrimination or race. The debate is also reaching the national level. U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, a south Denver Republican, on Friday called for an investigation after a television news report appeared to show Denver police officers ignoring evidence of illegal immigrant smuggling.
“I believe that it is obvious that this police indifference … is a direct offspring of Denver’s notorious ‘sanctuary city’ policy,” Tancredo wrote to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. “These smugglers know that Denver is hospitable to illegal aliens, so they believe they can operate here without fear of arrest or prosecution.”Tancredo has suggested that the United States must take a harder line on both legal and illegal immigration to protect itself from terrorists and to protect jobs for citizens. He supports building a wall along the entire border between Mexico and the United States, and says many local governments have policies that encourage, if not harbor, illegal immigrants.Longmont has already taken several steps to better serve its Hispanic residents. In addition to publishing newsletters and council agendas in Spanish, the city this year started giving extra pay to any worker who uses a second language in serving the public.This story first appeared in the Daily Times-Call. Vail, Colorado