Illegal alien bill’s bad news
Here’s a scary piece of legislation if you run a small business: Colorado House Bill 1082.I learned about it last month attending the “2006 Business Day at the State Legislature.” As part of the day, Attorney General Suthers filled us in on national legislation that could affect Colorado business. Bill 1082, introduced Jan. 12, states that “an employer has a duty to care for an unauthorized alien within his or her employ and that any tortious act or omission by the employee is deemed foreseeable by the employer and allows a person who has been aggrieved … to bring civil action against the employer for damages … whether they (acts or omissions) take place within or outside the scope of employment.”They further state that “the General Assembly finds, determines and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.” Wow. What a mouthful. But that’s the least of it. They would require all employers to verify work eligibility status of each employee to escape liability under this proposal. But, and it’s a really big but, they haven’t yet determined what that verification will entail.Federal law currently dictates that verification is required to establish work eligibility status before a prospective employee can be hired. One problem is that there are several authorized proofs that can be presented. But the real issue is the counterfeit market.An employer is virtually helpless in determining the authenticity of any of these documents. If the burden of proof of authenticity is placed on the employer, no one will be able to get a job because there is virtually no way of making a fool-proof assessment. Especially if you’re a typical small employer with nothing more technologically advanced than a fax machine at your disposal.Of course, the whole concept of making the employer financially responsible for any legal issues that his or her employee might generate is totally outrageous and should strike fear in the heart of every citizen, regardless of their position on the larger issue of immigration. In an attempt to solve one problem, it is irresponsible, dangerous and foolhardy to create another one with such potentially severe consequences. So while I find this proposed legislation to have dangerous ramifications for the Colorado employer, the larger issue still needs resolution. I don’t know what the answer should be, but several things are abundantly clear.The current estimate for illegal immigrants in the United States is some where between 10 million-12 million, including 150,000-200,000 in Colorado. Common sense would tell anyone that there is no way to round up that many people, let alone send them back to from wherever they came. Simply impossible. It seems, then, that there are two parts of a possible solution. We have to find a way to deal with the immigrants here and then set policies to eliminate further influx of what are now being called “unauthorized migrants.”Keeping in mind that federal law ultimately controls immigration, some Colorado legislators are proposing ballot initiatives that would withhold all nonemergency services except those mandated by federal law. Which brings me to a recent study by a think tank engaged to study that prospect for Colorado. They reached two very significant conclusions: “This report shows quite clearly that immigration and immigrants, both legal and illegal, make a positive contribution to our economy.” It went on to also say that a “ballot measure cutting public services for illegal immigrants would cost more than it saves.” More explicitly, it estimated that such a proposal would cost $4.3 million and save $460,000 for a net cost to the taxpayer of $3.9 million. It’s also interesting to note that education is the most expensive government service provided to undocumented workers. But since it is mandated by federal law, the initiative would not affect that expenditure.That subject itself poses food for thought, also. More than likely, an undocumented worker rents their place of residence. It has been my experience that built into the cost of a rental rate is property taxes. Which means that these workers, for all practical purposes, are in fact paying for education, since we all know that property taxes are the main funding source for education.Since this topic clearly is at the forefront of political debate at the national, state and local levels, I’m sure I will have ample opportunity to continue with this discussion. What is part of the great immigration myth, however, is that there is very little research to support the notion that these workers adversely affect the communities in which they live. Actually, quite the contrary. And of course, there’s also the question of jobs. But I’ll save that for later. Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail email@example.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Columnists” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.