A notice is posted on the door of the downtown Steamboat Springs duplex that burned in a fire last week. The immigration status of some residents is unclear.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

A notice is posted on the door of the downtown Steamboat Springs duplex that burned in a fire last week. The immigration status of some residents is unclear.

Immigration, foreclosure questions follow fire at Steamboat duplex

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How to help

Sarah Cherry, a local volunteer for the American Red Cross, said the best way to help the 18 people affected by the fire is through LIFT-UP of Routt County, 2125 Curve Court on Steamboat’s west side. Call LIFT-UP’s donation center at 970-879-3374 or LIFT-UP administration at 970-870-0727. The donation center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

Cherry has said cash donations are best because of the flexibility. Tatiana Achcar, executive director of Integrated Community, said those who want to donate specific items can call her at 970-871-4599 or programs coordinator Sheila Henderson at 970-620-1513 to learn what is needed.

Coming Monday

Read about the foreclosure and other ownership issues surrounding the duplexes at Fourth and Oak streets in Monday’s Steamboat Today.

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Debris sits outside of the downtown Steamboat Springs duplex that burned in a fire last week.

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Debris sit outside of the downtown Steamboat Springs duplex that burned in a fire last week.

— The Aug. 14 fire at a duplex in downtown Steamboat Springs embodies several of the largest issues facing the county and country today.

Foreclosure, financial struggles, the economic recession, immigration, housing and em­­ploy­ment all are wrapped up in the still-unfolding aftermath of the fire that gutted three units at Fourth and Oak streets. There were no fatalities and only minor injuries to the tenants who had received an eviction notice a day earlier.

Tenants of a matching duplex that’s across the alley and was not damaged by the fire also received an eviction notice, which followed the Aug. 11 foreclosure sale of the property to a subsidiary of Bank of America for more than $685,000. About 25 people lived in the five units in the two duplexes that date to 1949.

The 18 tenants displaced by the fire include an extended family with several children and about 10 adult members of the local workforce.

They came to Steamboat from locations including Peru, Honduras and El Salvador. Some have lived in Steamboat for several years, some less. Tatiana Achcar, executive director of Integrated Community, said some are documented, legal immigrants and some are not — the details remain unclear. Most of the tenants lost everything in the fire, including, in at least one case, immigration papers and lease documents that reportedly burned. The 18 tenants now are living in four units at The Ponds at Steamboat, thanks to a contribution Wed­nes­­day by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

Achcar said Ski Corp.’s housing assistance came as funds from the regional American Red Cross office were running out and the tenants’ living situations were uncertain.

“They are only taking what the Red Cross is able to give,” Achcar said.

Achcar said the tenants’ new living contract is good for a month. She said Ski Corp. officials indicated the contract could be extended if permanent housing is not found within that time.

Many local businesses and individuals also have lent a hand. Restaurants and City Market have given free meals, and the Alpiner Lodge provided discounted rooms for several nights.

“The Alpiner Lodge people were incredible,” Achcar said. “We couldn’t have asked for better treatment under the circumstances.”

But many needs remain for the people who are dealing with personal loss that is shedding light on larger issues facing the Steamboat community.

“When you live under poverty, there is no buffer,” Achcar said. “When things go wrong like this, quickly, everything else is affected.”

Papers

Illegal immigration continues to be a hot topic in Colorado. Former Congressman Tom Tan­cre­­do, a longtime advocate for tougher immigration laws and enforcement, is the American Con­­stitution Party’s candidate for governor. Last week, 11 Repub­lican state legislators, in­­cluding state Rep. Randy Baum­gardner, of Hot Sulphur Springs, traveled to Arizona to talk with legislators there about the state’s controversial new immigration laws and how to bring similar legislation to Colo­­rado’s Capitol next year.

“It’s been an issue for at least a half a dozen years. I think it may be a little more urgent now just because of the lack of construction work,” state Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, said about undocumented workers. “I think it adds a new urgency when work is so scarce.”

Several of the people in the Aug. 14 fire work locally on construction projects and job sites including More Lumber near Milner. Achcar said she doesn’t know exactly how many of those workers are in the country legally.

“I know some are; I know some aren’t,” Achcar said. “But honestly, I’m not lying to you, there was never a conversation here about who has papers and who doesn’t. Because the way we approach this work is, to us, it’s irrelevant.

“We deal with basic needs; we deal with human rights. We deal with integrating human beings into a community,” she continued.

White and Achcar noted that employers often are the driving force behind the flow of people across the country’s borders.

“Every single one of these people who came to the United States without documentation was fully sanctioned by employers,” Achcar said. “So if you want to point fingers, you need to point fingers at everyone who made this possible.”

She said there were fewer questions about undocumented workers when Routt County’s job market was booming and “the whole community was benefiting” from the influx of workers.

“We can’t have our cake and eat it too,” she said. “If we, as a community, choose to invite and sanction workers who work here, we need to understand that when the pendulum goes in the other direction … families have been here awhile, and they’ve developed roots in the community. They are no longer just day workers.”

Police

White said that under state law it’s illegal to employ an undocumented worker. Enforcement is up to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, which can notify federal agencies about illegal employment situations.

Capt. Joel Rae, of the Steam­boat Springs Police Department, said his staff acts on immigration laws according to federal interest.

“We are as concerned about it as … ICE and the department of immigration is concerned about it,” Rae said, referring to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Craig and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s immigration division, respectively. “If we take action and ICE doesn’t do anything … then it doesn’t do us any good to take action and pursue those matters.”

Rae said immigration checks usually occur only in arrests and not in situations such as the Aug. 14 fire.

Officers interviewed every tenant because the situation “definitely raises some red flags” about arson, Rae said, but no immigration action was taken. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“Unless an individual is charged with a jailable offense, then ICE isn’t notified,” Rae said.

He added that if the situation does not involve a crime, “it’s very rarely that any action is taken.”

Comments

flower 3 years, 7 months ago

Isn't it black and white whether someone is a legal immigrant or not? Are our laws so complicated that we just spin around in a flurry of details and paperwork? I know from other cases in other countries, they don't mess around, you are immediately deported if your illegal.

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mmjPatient22 3 years, 7 months ago

" “Every single one of these people who came to the United States without documentation was fully sanctioned by employers,” Achcar said. “So if you want to point fingers, you need to point fingers at everyone who made this possible.” "

The employers of these people should definitely be held responsible, at least somewhat, for the well-being of these people. They made the choice to bring them in, now they can bear the responsibility for them. Employers have GOT to start getting it through their thick skulls that, despite saving a few bucks on hourly wages by hiring undocumented(aka, foreign) workers, the long-term cost(s) to their local/state/national communities far outweighs any benefit to their business' bottom line. Most especially in times like these, shame on you! Invest in the future of your friend, your neighbors and your community; hire local.

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Matthew Stoddard 3 years, 7 months ago

Hey YVB! Loved your picture in today's Pilot! I didn't know you were the Bat-Boy from World News Weekly!

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beverly lemons 3 years, 7 months ago

I prefer honest undocumented people in my community over the slum lords and shady employers who exploit them. If your not native American, your here because of immigration yourself.

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mmjPatient22 3 years, 7 months ago

I don't think that there's anyone here who's honestly arguing over the validity and/or extent of anyone's natural/native/geneological immigration status. And so, according to your native American bit, I guess none of us really have the right to be here, or something? Like what, this generation is supposed to be all sorry and repentant for things that were done by our forefathers? Granted, very horrific atrocities were payed out on the native peoples of this land. However, how do you expect any of us alive today to pick up any of that slack? None of that is the point. Even if it was, the citizenry of this nation is issued a social security number upon birth, or naturalization, and they are subsequently taxed until death, thereby financially supporting the operation(s) of our government.

Now, as to your "honest undocumented people" comment...seriously? How do you justify calling undocumented people honest, when they're cheating the system just by being here undocumentedly/illegally? Sure, I'm sure that they're all great people of the highest moral character, but illegal is still illegal. May I remind everyone that illegal is a crime, not a race.

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beverly lemons 3 years, 7 months ago

Good point mmj. Would you support an easier path to legal naturalization as opposed to unenforceable laws (AZ), which only create more strive without doing anything about the problem. Meanwhile, plenty of people take advantage of the undocumented, renting them homes with dirt floors, paying them substandard wages, and using them as scapegoats for every ill aspect of our culture. Instead of blasting the brown people for trying to do what your ancestors did, (making a better life for their children), please come up with some workable solutions to global disparity between people. When everyone has enough to eat, shelter, and safety from persecution, illegal immigration wont exit.

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mmjPatient22 3 years, 7 months ago

How about I just support the current path to legal, naturalized US citizenship? Your opinion seems to lend to the idea that the current naturalization process is too faulty/flawed to remain in place and, therefore, is in need of an overhaul to make a little bit easier for all of the people that aren't interested in becoming naturalized US citizens in the first place. The people that do care enough to take the time to do things the legal way, usually do. The rest cross boarders illegally. And the rest are hoping for amnesty. To be clear, the state laws that Arizona has been forced to fight for, due to federal government inaction on the subject, have absolutely nothing to do with naturalization or becoming a US citizen. Most illegal immigrants completely lack all desire to obtain that title for themselves. They're here for one thing; to make money for their family(ies), like you said. The things that are causing the strife*(at least I think that's what you meant) are things like taxes, housing, jobs and good ol' American pride. Illegal immigrants aren't helping the employment(or unemployment) situation in this country. When a dozen or so "family members" occupy a space that would normally only hold half of that in the rest of America, rent/mortgage money that would otherwise be destined for the necessary number of rental units suddenly disappears and another homeowner takes out another rental ad. When an illegal immigrant occupies a job position, that's another job position that your fellow American brothers & sisters can't have. And to hell with the farmers and ranchers that say Americans don't want the jobs that the illegals have! People move to the jobs and take any job in times like these. The problem is that our economy has become so grotesquely bloated with inflation infection puss that farmers&ranchers can't afford to pay Americans what it costs to live in today's America. Am I missing something or do we need to fix our frigin' boarder?!?!

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John Fielding 3 years, 7 months ago

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I grew up in in a fruit farming family in the Great Basin, and boy we worked hard, my parents even harder, their parents first cleared and irrigated our lands. But the Mexicans helped pick the fruit, without them it would have not been picked at all.

Seems it was easy in those days (the 50s 60s, 70s) for them to come up from Mexico, we would often drive a fruit truck down to the border or even clear to their village to bring them up and take them home.

Some decided to stay, not many, and became the year round help, then leased or bought their own fields.Some were migrants, most we knew from regular returns. A few white families also did the migrant harvest route. For some reason those families had a harder time getting respect than the Mexicans.

But you can't let the fruit rot on the trees many times before you realize the local citizens will not take the work and you have to use the migrants or limit your fields to only what your family can tend.

Regarding the other issue, the displacement of the Indians was entirely in conformity to every culture's activities through all of human history until the mid twentieth century. Even later if you count the Russians failed attempt to conquer Afghanistan. The Utes and Shoshones who occupied my families lands prior to our arrival fought unending wars with each other for the possession of favored valleys, and those tribes who fought less ferociously became the Omegas, living on crickets and twigs, constantly raided for their children for slaves, as that was the only thing they had that anyone wanted. Many of the tribes had occupied their lands for terms of just a few hundred years since the last conquest or forced migration, not much longer than the current displacement cycle.

How long does it take to become a Native?

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beverly lemons 3 years, 7 months ago

I am trying to propose (please forgive my typos), that illegal immigration is symptomatic with grossly unequitable resource distribution.

I can not fault someone trying to make life bearable for their family by coming here to work and keep those back home from starving. Nor do I condemn someone with ambitions beyond being a subsistence worker to go someplace they can get an education and satisfy their intellectual needs. MMJ, you make good points, but I am playing the humanist side of the fence. Did these people displace you when they rented this hovel? Did any of them obtain work you would take? How did anything they do take away from your quality of life?

My ancestors came here from France for the same reasons these folks came from Peru. I find no fault with them. I fault a world where for every 1,000, 000 obese people 1,500, 000 are starving. I blame nativism which claims only certain individuals are entitled to the good life. I blame religion which condemns birth control and education for girls.

How about some viable, workable solutions as opposed to vilifying those people who are doing exactly what our ancestors did? If I was a native Mexican I would probably sneak across the border myself.

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John Fielding 3 years, 7 months ago

I wish everyone would stop degrading the building. I did a little work there, enough to satisfy the needs of the moment. Sure new appliances and fixtures, paint and carpet, windows, etc would be nice, but that would also require the raising of the rents quite a bit. Some people have lived there for many years, many used it as a temporary residence, because it was cheap. It could have been fixed up real nice.

The basement floor was only mud after it got soaked, it was good hard well drained sandy gravel under the surface.

And now it looks very much as if the fire was deliberate. Why did the bank find it necessary to evict everyone from both buildings? Some of those LEGAL folks have been paying their rent on time for years.

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