Senate committee axes immigration bill
The state Senate’s Judiciary Committee on Monday killed House Bill 1448 on a 4-3 partisan vote. The measure aimed to require police officers and sheriff’s deputies to detain immigrants who are ignoring deportation orders. The bill would have required driver’s licenses and state identification cards issued to immigrants expire on the day the holder’s visa expires.
The decisive vote came on the heels of the bill’s passing the state House of Representatives last week.
In the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Rob Hernandez, D-Denver, Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, Sen. Doug Linkhart, D-Denver and Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, voted against the bill; Sen. Ken Arnold, R-Westminster, Mark Hillman, R-Burlington and Jim F. Dyer, R-Littleton, voted in favor of it.
“Law enforcement should be there for public safety and not to enforce laws against non-citizens,” Linkhart said. “They have enough to do already.”
Opponents of the bill believed the measure could have alienated immigrants.
“I see racial profiling,” Linkhart said. “They (law enforcement) could be stopping people for other causes and then turning them in for their immigration status.”
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Don Lee, R-Littleton, however, maintained the bill would have helped the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service keep up with a workload that has increased significantly since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Eagle County Sheriff A.J. Johnson agreed, saying the bill would have been a positive tool to control illegal immigrants who aren’t responding to a deportation order.
“There has to be accountability,” Johnson said. “Once somebody receives a (deportation) order from a U.S. court, you know they’ve been in trouble. You can bet that they had been in the system several times, so they need to go.”
The bill was amended last week to ensure police don’t stop people without probable cause.
“Everybody uses the racial profiling term for everything. But to stop somebody, officers need some kind of violation of the law,” Johnson said. “If you run somebody’s name (through crime computers) and it comes back that there’s a court order for his deportation, what’s the racial profiling in that?”
Rep. Nolbert Chavez, D-Denver, said if enacted the bill would have undermined years of work by local law enforcement agencies to make immigrants feel comfortable reporting crimes without fear of being jailed themselves.
“I believe the bill was aimed to control those illegal immigrants who are in the country without taking any steps to legalize their situation,” Johnson said.
In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Senate is deliberating whether to split the INS in two entities, overhauling immigration services and immigration law enforcement. The INS, under fire for its lax enforcement or immigration policies, in March mailed visa change approvals to a flying school in Florida for two of the dead Sept. 11 hijackers.
The U.S. House voted April 25 to abolish the INS and replace it with two bureaus that would handle services for immigrants and law enforcement separately.
U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, said a breakup of the INS and its duties would increase efficiency in processing applications and enhancing border monitoring. The restructuring bill still must pass the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by President Bush.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Veronica Whitney can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.