May 30, 2006

Owens Signs Immigration Bills

Designed to put the hurt--state felonies for those convicted--on those who deal in trafficking illegal immigrants and those who falsify "documents" designed to keep them here:
Gov. Bill Owens signed four immigration bills into law this afternoon that target human smugglers, human traffickers and people who make fake identification documents.

* Senate Bill 110, sponsored by Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, creates a $50,000 civil fine for making counterfeit identification documents and pays for a law department investigator. Revenues from collected fines would go to immigration enforcement.

* Senate Bill 20, sponsored by Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, makes human trafficking — selling adults into indentured servitude or prostitution — a state felony.

* Senate Bill 206, also sponsored by Groff, makes human smuggling — sneaking an illegal immigrant into the country — a state felony.

* House Bill 1306, sponsored by Matt Knoedler, R-Lakewood, requires an audit of a 2003 law that limits the use of identification issued by foreign governments.

Owens has already signed into law Senate Bill 90, which directs police to notify immigration officials if they have reasonable cause to believe that an arrestee for offenses other than domestic violence or minor traffic violations is an illegal immigrant. Two other immigration bills are awaiting the governor's action.
Perhaps by putting the focus on those enabling and encouraging others to risk their money and their lives to come here illegally, and making the punishment a state felony, there will be a reduction in trafficking at least here in Colorado, as the state becomes a less desirable route for those "coyotes" and others who stack human beings in vans and speed across our highways. Unfortunately, as this is not part of a national program, the diverted and discouraged smugglers will only seek ways around Colorado and possible felony convictions.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of these bills was the show of bipartisan support for the measures:
"Clearly, illegal immigration is one of the most serious issues facing our country, and that's why this legislation is so important," Owens said. "The number of illegal immigrants living in Colorado is growing exponentially, and many of the issues and impacts have to be dealt with at the state level.

"However, as I have said on a number of occasions, individual states cannot solve the overall problem. The heavy lifting must be done at our nation's Capitol, and I think most people understand that."

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, touted the work of the General Assembly.

"I think the package that we produced with bipartisan support is one that we can be proud of," he said.

"Democrats and Republicans agreed this year on three points. First, that illegal immigration is a significant problem. Second, that the pace of reform in Washington is not satisfactory. And third, that states don't have to wait - that there are some things that states can do."

Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, who sponsored two of the bills signed by Owens, said the mood in the legislature changed in the midst of the session.

Wiens contends that Democrats scheduled a one-day hearing on about a dozen Republican-sponsored immigration measures with the intent of killing all of them. Democratic leaders said the Republican measures were unconstitutional, too expensive or mean-spirited.

But anger over the Democrats' action, plus the debate stirred by the massive pro-immigration marches and rallies, pushed lawmakers into a serious bipartisan effort.

"Then we had some real honest discussions between Democrats and Republicans on this issue," he said.
A great step forward? No, but better than nothing.


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