Baumgardner’s Arizona border trip ignites Colorado immigration debate
August 27, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Randy Baumgardner said he heard some terrible stories in Arizona last week.
Baumgardner, a Republican from Hot Sulphur Springs, represents Routt County and the rest of House District 57 at the Capitol in Denver.
He recently spent about six days in Arizona with 10 other Republican state legislators, he said, "on a fact-finding mission looking at the immigration issues and the drug trafficking and human trafficking into the country." He met with people including law enforcement officers, U.S. Border Patrol members, landowners and Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the Republican co-author of Senate Bill 1070. That bill has been described as the nation's toughest on immigration and has spurred protests, questions about its constitutionality and ongoing court action since Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law in April.
Brewer, a Republican, has asked the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to overturn U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's decision to block parts of the law, The Arizona Republic reported late last month.
Similar immigration law debates could intensify in Colorado next year.
Baumgardner said "there's a very good possibility there will be legislation drafted" regarding immigration laws in Colorado's 2011 legislative session.
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"We're going to have to do something," he said Wednesday. "I don't know exactly how that legislation is crafted because we're going to have to adhere to our constitutional laws here in the state."
Baumgardner said that during his trip he heard stories about home break-ins, stolen vehicles, shootings and other crimes along the country's border with Mexico.
"It's posted down there, everywhere, 'Stay out of these areas' because of human trafficking and drug smugglers," Baumgardner said. "Those are things that are happening that people should be aware of."
Whether Baumgardner has a hand in potential immigration legislation will be up to voters in Northwest Colorado, where Baumgardner is up for re-election.
His challenger in fall, Democrat and former Steamboat Springs City Councilman Steve Ivancie, called Arizona's new immigration laws "a little over the top in terms of constitutionality."
Ivancie said the key immigration issues facing Colorado involve undocumented workers and unaccountable employers.
"When I'm in the state Legislature, I will work to ensure that Colorado employers have the tools they need to accurately document the immigration status of the people they employ, so they won't be fooled by falsified documents and such," Ivancie said. "Employers need to be accountable if they knowingly hire illegals. … I think that's the key word — accountability."
Ivancie said immigration reform ultimately has to come from the federal government.
"I don't believe a state-by-state patchwork when it comes to immigration is appropriate or effective," he said. "It's a federal issue and the federal government needs to do its job."
Ivancie added that federal action is occurring. He praised the $600 million bill President Barack Obama signed two weeks ago to pay for 1,500 new border agents, more Border Patrol stations and more unmanned surveillance drones on the southwest border.
Baumgardner said Colorado faces additional immigration issues.
"The problem that we're going to have to address is the sanctuary city problem … (and) the amount of social services that are offered to illegals is going to have to be looked at," Baumgardner said, clarifying that he thinks emergency services always should be provided.
"In order to receive social services, you're going to have to be a citizen. If you're illegal, then you're not entitled to social services."
Ivancie said some Colorado politicians, including Baumgardner, appear to be using the immigration issue for political leverage in an election year.
"Where was all this talk about immigration when the economy was booming?" Ivancie asked Wednesday. "Some politicians are probably going to exploit this for political gain — where have they been for the past several years? … We'll just wait and see what happens come next year, when the election's over."
Baumgardner said he was involved in a bill last year that would have implemented electronic verification policies for immigrants. That bill died in a Senate committee.
He said he also engaged in talks about possible photo-identification legislation.
Baumgardner said he is not using the issue to score political points.
"The people that are making those statements haven't been down to the border and talked with people that are there … and experienced the lawlessness that's happening there," Baumgardner said. "I don't think it has anything to do with grandstanding at all — I think it has to do with our borders being safe and the country being safe.
"I don't grandstand."