March 29, 2006

Colorado Immigration Bills, Debate

Michelle Malkin leads the national coverage with an excellent and comprehensive roundup.

A mixed bag in Colorado on immigration, as document fraud might see an increased penalty, but drivers trafficking illegal immigrants (and being illegal themselves) will face no penalties other than deportation. Also, the influence of churches on organizing the protests, and smaller student rallies across Colorado, complete with Mexican flags (outnumbering American flags, of course). Scroll for updates. . .

New report estimates cost of illegal immigrants for Colorado citizens of $1 billion. (video and tons of links on the page) More here.

Protests not spontaneous, but carefully orchestrated by Spanish media:

(AP) LOS ANGELES The marching orders were clear: Carry American flags and pack the kids, pick up your trash and wear white for peace and for effect.

Many of the 500,000 people who crammed downtown Los Angeles on Saturday to protest legislation that would make criminals out of illegal immigrants learned where, when and even how to demonstrate from the Spanish-language media.

For English-speaking America, the mass protests in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities over the past few days have been surprising for their size and seeming spontaneity.

But they were organized, promoted or publicized for weeks by Spanish-language radio hosts and TV anchors as a demonstration of Hispanic pride and power.
Senate bill to crack down on phony IDs and documents for illegal immigrants:
Anyone caught making phony green cards and Social Security documents to help illegal immigrants gain legal status would face a $50,000 fine under a bill that sailed through the state Senate Tuesday.

Senate Bill 110 is meant to crack down on those mass-producing forged documents by giving district attorneys and the Colorado attorney general theauthority to file civil suits to combat the illegal activity.

"The reason people do it is for the money, so let's hit them where it hurts - their pocketbook," said bill sponsor Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock.

The Senate gave its initial approval to the bill, which would make creating false documents a civil offense, carrying a set fine of $50,000. . .

. . .Its swift passage comes as the state's focus on illegal immigration has sharpened in the wake of a series of rollover accidents last week that involved dozens of undocumented immigrants.

On Tuesday, both Republican and Democrat state lawmakers expressed dismay over a sweeping bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Monday that could allow millions of illegal immigrants to seek citizenship.

"I'm never surprised when the federal government does anything that's counter to solving the problem," said Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, sponsor of two measures targeting the smuggling and trafficking of illegal immigrants.
But no charges for the drivers of the vans filled with illegal immigrants:

None of the drivers of vehicles packed with illegal immigrants that overturned on icy highways last week will face criminal prosecution, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Tuesday.

Immigration investigators determined "there was not enough evidence of criminal activity to present to the U.S. attorney," said spokesman Carl Rusnock.

Colorado State Patrol reports identified the drivers in at least three of the six accidents March 20 and 21 on Interstates 70 and 76. More than 100 illegal Mexican immigrants, a few of whom suffered minor injuries, were detained for one or two days and then flown home. . .

. . .From a different perspective, Fidel "Butch" Montoya, a former Denver manager of public safety, differentiated between drivers and so-called coyotes - the bosses of organized immigrant smuggling.

"I don't think there is any sympathy for anyone involved in human trafficking," said Montoya, who has taken up the banner of immigration. "If (ICE investigators) had determined they were coyotes, there probably would have been some charges."

The drivers may simply have been "providing taxi service" by driving for the coyotes, he said.

Instead of criminal charges, the drivers will face formal deportations beginning with appearances in Denver Immigration Court, Rusnock said.

Although six vans and SUVs wrecked, deportation proceedings are under way against only four drivers - all male, Mexican and illegal.

The driver of a fifth wrecked van was an immigrant father not linked to smuggling and the driver of a sixth vehicle, which was carrying illegal immigrants, could not be established because of contradictory statements to investigators, he said.

Formal deportations carry a potential federal prison term if a violator attempts to return to the United States within 10 years, or longer in some cases. In contrast, almost all the passengers qualified for voluntary return, which does not entail penalties.
Churches on local and national level jump in to support illegal immigrants:

A wide range of religious groups have been serving a critical role in recent efforts to push Congress to pass what they call humane immigration reforms.

More than 200 religious organizations, including those associated with Catholics, evangelicals, Mennonites, Muslims and Jews, have conducted letter-writing campaigns to President Bush and Congress and encouraged congregation members to attend huge pro-immigrant rallies in cities across the country.

One of the most visible organizations in the debate, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been training clergy, parishioners and church employees on the religious principles of helping refugees and immigrants. Locally, members of the Denver Archdiocese have been conducting educational presentations on immigration reform about twice a week.
Local students protest here and here (video).


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