Republicans head to U.S.-Mexico border |

Republicans head to U.S.-Mexico border

Kimberly Nicoletti
AP photoTexas Minutemen members Stan Odum, left, and A.E. Smith look out over the Rio Grande, Saturday, October, 1, 2005, on the first day of the group's patrol along the U.S.-Mexico border near Fort Hancock, Texas. The Minutemen will patrol the area for a one month period between Fort Hancock and El Paso, Texas.

SUMMIT COUNTY – More immigrants now enter the United States illegally than legally, according to a report released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center. And some Colorado lawmakers aim to restrict state services to them.This week, three Republican state legislators – Rep. David Schultheis of Colorado Springs, Rep. Jim Welker of Loveland and Rep. Bill Crane of Arvada – are meeting with legislators and residents along the Arizona-Mexican border. Kent Lambert, the executive director of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, is also on the trip and Monday, the group met with 16 Arizona legislators to talk about the impact of illegal immigrants.

“The major thing we’re looking at down here and in Colorado is having some sort of accountability over taxpayer programs,” Lambert said from his cell phone as he rode along a washboard road during a trip to the U.S.-Mexican border in central Arizona Tuesday. Later that day, he went on patrol with Minutemen, a group of volunteers who patrol the border. Though federal programs such as Social Security and Medicaid are restricted, state programs often are not, he said.”Four to five hundred million dollars per year in state services are being used on illegal aliens, and that alone would pay for any short fallings proponents of Referendum C and D claim they need for the state budget,” he said.On Nov. 1, voters will decide on Referendum C and D, which, if passed, would allow the state to keep tax refunds for five years to address a budget shortfall.

‘Taxpayers want something done’The traveling lawmakers are gathering information on issues including gang activity, the risk of terrorists crossing the border, and economic impacts of illegal immigrants. The information will be used to propose new laws. “There’s a great interest in proposing legislation of this kind, and I think there will be much more interest,” Lambert said. “Surveys show a greater disparity between the desires of the people and the actions of politicians than any other issue. Most taxpayers want something done, and elected officials are not doing it.”

Rep. Gary Lindstrom, a Democrat who represents Summit and Eagle counties, said he disagrees with talk of proposed legislation to deny state-supported health care and other services. “I seriously wish it wasn’t happening because I think it’s very divisive,” Lindstrom said.Federal law provides education and emergency medical services to anyone, regardless of nationality. Lindstrom said any reduced state support will ultimately cost taxpayers more money, for example, in the form of unpaid emergency room bills.

“(Lindstrom) may be right, but that doesn’t make the situation right,” said Frisco resident Mike McCraken, who spent most of April helping Minutemen watch the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona and who supports legislation restricting state-funded programs. “Federal legislation has to change, and I think a number of federal legislators understand that,” he said. “So let’s change those rules as appropriate.”‘Jobs no one wants’

Lindstrom said economically, illegal workers pay state and federal withholdings because most use false social security numbers. Then they are unable to file for tax refunds. He does point out that those who work for cash don’t pay into the system, and that an industry may suffer because an employer who hires undocumented workers can pay them less than one who hires legal workers, since illegal workers usually are willing to work for less money. But in general, Lindstrom thinks illegal immigrants help the economy.”It’s just unfortunate that people are narrow-minded,” he said. “They don’t realize how important our foreign workers are. They think they are taking jobs away, but they’re taking the jobs no one wants to work at.”

He says he doesn’t hear a lot of negative feedback from Summit County residents about undocumented immigrants, but he does from people in other counties. Still, the issue of illegal immigration upsets some locals.”Something’s got to be done,” McCraken said. “To deny public benefits simply to illegals is fair to everybody. Here the state’s begging for money through Referendum C and D, but the state’s giving money in the form of help to illegals. Now show me the logic. What’s going on is illegal, unfair and unsustainable.”Vail, Colorado

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