Routt County lawmaker preps immigration bill

Baumgardner planning proposal for 2011 session, said specifics are not yet known

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Randy Baumgardner

— Routt County’s state representative could be at the forefront of debates about illegal immigration policy at the Capitol in 2011.

Rep. Randy Ba­­umgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, said this week that he’s working on a bill to address illegal immigration’s costs to the state and its taxpayers — a cost that he said Tuesday is about $1.5 billion a year. That figure drew questions from veteran Republican legislator Al White, a Hayden senator and recently deposed member of the state’s Joint Budget Committee. The director of a Steamboat Springs organization that provides resources for immigrants said the Republican Study Com­­mittee of Colorado, a group of GOP legislators that includes Baumgardner and could propose Arizona-style legislation next year, is not addressing the true underlying issues surrounding immigration policy.

Baumgardner cited the $1.5 billion figure after attending the study committee’s Monday forum at the Capitol to discuss illegal immigration issues. Baumgardner said the event included discussion of gang-related incidents along the Mexico border; Colorado workers not being able to find jobs “because illegals are taking those jobs”; and “the amount of people who are paying upward of $30,000 to be smuggled into the country.”

An article in The Denver Post this week said some critics called the forum an “echo-chamber hearing” for its lack of testimony from immigrant-rights groups.

“There was comment from the audience — we did take questions at the end,” Baumgardner said. “Some people felt that we only got one side of it, and they asked if we could schedule another hearing.”

Tatiana Achcar, executive director of Steamboat-based Integrated Community, did not attend the event but said it appeared one-sided.

“I believe the echo chamber analogy describes it well,” she said. “Just folks with some fears and some philosophies that get together and toot each other’s horns.

“It doesn’t even appear that there’s a whole lot of discussion about why things are the way they are. I think it’s quite ironic, frankly, that the Republican group or committee would get together and bash on illegal immigration, when a lot of their constituents, including small businesses … have for decades reaped the benefits of that labor. And that’s why they’ve come. If there was no demand, there would be no supply.”

Baumgardner said that al­­though he doesn’t yet have specifics for the bill he plans to propose, the legislation will be intended to reduce costs.

“The basic idea of that bill is to save the state of Colorado $1.5 billion — that’s what illegals are costing the state of Colorado right now,” Baumgardner said.

He then cited Colorado’s looming budget deficit of more than $1 billion.

“If we weren’t paying $1.5 billion for services for illegals, we would be able to balance our budget and not have to cut anything,” he said.

That comment echoed re­­marks by state Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, who told The Pueblo Chieftain this week that Arizona-style immigration changes could cut costs and create “a zero-sum gain” to balance the state budget.

The Chieftain also reported that at Monday’s forum, Jack Martin of the Federation for American Immigration Reform said two-thirds of Colorado’s $1.4 billion costs from illegal immigrants are related to education. That group pushes for tougher immigration regulations and enforcement.

White noted that educating all children is a federal requirement. He said Colorado’s general fund investment in K-12 education is “about a couple of billion” out of a total cost of $4.3 billion.

“I’m not quite sure how you would determine that $1.5 billion of that expenditure is from educating illegal immigrant children,” White said. “That’s an awfully high percentage.”

Priorities

Baumgardner visited Arizona on a Republican committee trip in August to assess immigration conditions in the border state that passed controversial immigration legislation earlier this year.

Baumgardner said that during his trip, he heard stories about home break-ins, stolen vehicles, shootings and other crimes along the border with Mexico.

Arizona’s law, among other provisions, will require police to check immigration status during arrests and traffic stops and require immigrants to carry citizenship papers. Some of the law’s provisions have raised questions about constitutionality.

The law is pending legal challenges in federal court.

Achcar said its tone was damaging.

“Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum … Arizona-style legislation brews powerful negative sentiment that has negative impacts on everyone,” she said. “Legislation like that rarely tends to lead to sound policy and long-term solutions. It just brews fear and panic.”

State Sen.-elect Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, is planning legislation similar to the Arizona law. Baumgardner said his bill is not tied to Lambert’s.

“Kent Lambert’s bill has nothing to do with my bill. … There will be several pieces of legislation,” Baumgardner said. “Sen. Lambert’s bill is the bill he’s going to run; my bill will be the bill that I’m going to run. They may be similar, or they may not look anything alike.”

Baumgardner said he plans to talk with involved agencies and organizations before finalizing his bill.

“You’re looking at three weeks to a month before knowing exactly how the bill is going to look,” Baumgardner said Tuesday. “Until we have all the meetings with all those agencies … it’s hard to say what it’s going to look like.”

White, meanwhile, said illegal immigration is not a top item on his legislative agenda next year.

“On my priority list, it’s not very high — and that’s not to suggest we don’t have a problem,” White said. But “it seems to me that jobs and the economy is a higher priority on people’s minds at this time.”

White added that he’s “not trying to second-guess” Baum­gardner and credited the representative’s initiative to visit Arizona and study immigration policy.

“All I can say is it’s not an issue that I’m trying to prioritize,” White said. “I’m trying to prioritize improving our economy through stabilizing tourism funding.”

Comments

addlip2U 3 years, 10 months ago

"Tatiana Achcar, executive director of Steamboat-based Integrated Community, did not attend the event but said it appeared one-sided."

On what bases did Tatiana make such remark - she did not attend the event.

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Kristopher Hammond 3 years, 10 months ago

A publicity stunt for an imaginary bill. We can't do anything about “illegals are taking those jobs” as long as it is easy (cheap) for employers to give those jobs to illegals. Fine the hell out of employers who illegally conspire in the theft of these jobs. As long as the lowest bid gets the job, the problem won't go away. We have to be willing to pay more for goods and services that are 100% legal.

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seeuski 3 years, 10 months ago

Protect the borders now Obama and stop the attacks on AZ.

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pitpoodle 3 years, 10 months ago

Shawant, maybe that will be part of the bill when it is proposed. If you want this, do your part to make it more than a publicity stunt or don't complaint about it later.

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tcb 3 years, 10 months ago

Hopefully the bill will address hammering the employers who willingly support hiring illegals. There's nothing wrong with checking the immigration status of potential illegals by police during a legit contact as far as i'm concerned. Let's get this legislation rolling!

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

Addlip2U and Queenie were not there when Tatiana made a comment, but believe she said the event appeared one-sided. On what basis did addlip2u and Queenie make such remarks - they were not there when it was said.

Maybe Tatiana did the same thing as you two which was to read an article in which a reporter that was there said what did happen.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

tcb, Police can always check immigration status of anyone arrested. But the tough question is whether they should check immigration status of a crime victim or a witness. Or whether the police can stop anyone for suspicion of anything and check that person's immigration status. So if you go walking down the street without your wallet that you can be held in jail until you can prove you are a legal citizen.

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kathy foos 3 years, 10 months ago

Breckenridge just passed a civil rights law put before them by the Feds,in return for money for equipment I believe.Two days ago Hickenlooper stated he wants to continue this practice as Ritter has.Are they shoving something in the back door?Will our towns be passing similar things,or attempting to without the voters actual approval? Thanks Mr Baumgartner,there is hope for our own children if you can get the immigration law.We pay so many taxes and the illegals are benefiting instead of our own children who are having their future robbed. After six months and over two hundred jobs applied for,I have been offered a parttime job today,year round, Im so happy.I wish the best of luck to you people searching,I will be hoping the for best for everyone.Its sad to think of the people that still dont have a job,Ill do all I can to change the way things are in our area for locals getting jobs.

It seems a hard ugly thought,but couldnt the Feds look right now at how many visa workers are in town now,they just got here and so they could studie the situation for ski season,then next year dont bring them back.Our economy will do much better.Untill someone checks the actual statsistics,we will never know.I think that our unemployment is much higher than stated.Since I never had benefits available,I dont think Im included in the out of work report and there are many others like me around that I know. Good job to the Chamber and Pilot for getting help and encouragement for the one's out of work.How about a county list to sign for employers to shop for us as workers without running an add?Stimulas county money for hiring these people in needed areas where possible even if temporary.We are Americans and we want our jobs back,other Americans are hurting us by employing Visa workers improperl and illegals blatently as they wish. CLOSE THE ARIZONA BORDER

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jm fay 3 years, 10 months ago

How many of you realise that our 2006 summer session produced a law with 2 large loopholes in it? That is they only required people in a employee situation to be verified that they have the right to work only if hired after 1 jan 07 and they left out independent contract work unless its for the public sector and only then dol investigates only if you file a complaint.

We were at this hearing and at the end we talked about this so some help from you to get your lawmaker to close these would help. We already talked to ours and hoping she keeps to her word about a bill this session. Bipartisan will get it done.

As for visa holders; thats a federal issue and something to ask your new congress person about because it makes no sense with the high level of unemployed people in CO / USA.

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Queenie 3 years, 10 months ago

Scott W: I did not make a comment...I simply raised a question. Why are you always so eager to judge and attack?

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

Queenie, I just raised the same question about you that you raised about Tatiana. If that was an attack then you made the same attack on her.

My response also included an answer to the question that you posed - that she read an article on the meeting just as you read an article that included her comment.

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David Marks 3 years, 10 months ago

I really love how these representatives pull these figures out of the air without telling the entire truth. Stats are stats, they are numbers and you can make those numbers tell the story you want the public to hear. The question is, Did the public believe that or did they take a look at where he got those numbers? Ok, so he says that 1.5 Bill. is what is cost the state, where did they get these numbers and how do they know it was illegal immigrants using those services? Did they just ask them? It is no different then when they use the common phrase "The American people have spoken", when did we. I never voted or took a poll on that issue. We let these politician run America. Americans never step up and take charge of the country. Did that representative tell you about the 2.9 Billion that was paid in to Social Security and it would probably not exists without the illegal immigrants. Unlike what the representative tell you, Illegal immigrants work on illegal social security numbers and pay taxes, they are scared to claim them, so their are millions and billions of free money for the government, Oh yea, they forgot to tell you that as well. Get your representative to actually act as a public servent, what he really is, and not a self rightous god. Get hime to tell you the entire story, not only what he wants you to know. Stand up and be a citizen and research what they say. Immigrants are not taking our county and sending it to a spiraling death, Politicians are. BTW, Mexicans are not the only illegal immigrants here, there are many other races, and Mexico is not the only border, they fail to bring out the facts of how many illegal immigrants are crossing the Canadian border, but no one seems to care about that.

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kyle pietras 3 years, 10 months ago

Is every Rep. writing their own bill? If Colorado wants to get involved, Colorado Reps should brain storm and present a Colorado bill. Don't waste our money.

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housepoor 3 years, 10 months ago

kyle, i thought the same thing, they are even in the same party??

dmark, you are right, he has no clue what if any savings would be......I'm waiting for him to say he heard it on the Rush L show...........

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Queenie 3 years, 10 months ago

Scott: again,I did not make a comment about her or toward her...just a question. "Seek first to understand." Quite a concept.

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jmm761 3 years, 10 months ago

The system is broken, many, if not all of the foreign workers in Steamboat came here legally. We are not a border town or state for that matter. They were brought here by large companies for less expensive pay and promised the world. They try to renew their visas and are denied, most just want to save some money and go home. Some, like our ancestors want to save some money and stay, why can we not find a work visa that works? They are not taking any jobs that are necessarily desirable or sought after in Steamboat. They are the back bone of most Tourist towns. Come on, how many lazy Americans do you know right now that are on unemployment because they just can't quite wrap their head around getting that job at McDonalds? This is not the American way. Some of these legal and illegal immigrants care more and contribute more to our communities than our own residents. Instead of crazy new government, why don't we work to fix the problem. And guess what, I am not a liberal!

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