Huffpost Denver

Arizona-Style Immigration Bill Introduced In Colorado Legislature

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Colorado Republican lawmakers introduced this week a piece of legislation inspired by Arizona's controversial SB 1070 immigration law.

SB 54, introduced by conservative Colorado Springs Republican Kent Lambert, would allow--but not require, as the Arizona legislation does--local law enforcement officers to arrest anyone they believe to be an illegal immigrant. The law would also allow officers to arrest anyone against whom federal immigration authorities have issued a detainer order, or who has been indicted or convicted of aggravated felonies.

It is unclear whether Senate Bill 54 will garner enough votes to pass through the divided legislature (Democrats control the State Senate, while the GOP has a slim majority in the State House). In the past, Governor Hickenlooper has called Arizona's SB 1070 "troubling." A spokesman for the Governor would not tell the Denver Post whether he would veto SB 54 in the event it passed through the legislature, but did say that "the Arizona law poses troubling constitutional issues."

The Republicans' introduction of the bill follows an election season during which several conservative members of the Colorado legislature met with Arizona lawmakers about SB 1070 and vowed to introduce similar legislation in 2011.

"We are prepared to take on this issue directly because we know the people of Colorado expect us to deal with the issue," Senator Kevin Lundberg said after meeting with Arizona officials in August.

A Rasmussen poll conducted shortly after the passage of Arizona's SB 1070 found that 55% in Colorado would support a similar law.

The move however, has not been without its Republican critics, who would sooner have the legislature focus on the economy. In November, the Colorado Springs Gazette published a critical letter from prominent Republican Steve Schuck, who wrote "making headlines by coming out of the chute with an immigration bill as our initial, signature effort appears to evidence some serious tone deafness."

Indeed, Project New West, a Denver-based research group that works mostly for Democratic clients, said in a statement to the Huffington Post on Thursday that their research "suggests that voters, regardless of their race or ethnicity, want Colorado state government to focus on jobs, the economy and solving our budget problems, not immigration."

The proposal has also been criticized by law enforcement. Mesa county Sheriff Stan Hilkey told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel this month that there is no need because most officers already enforce a rule that requires them to cooperate with the ICE when dealing with a suspect with questionable immigration status.

"(The law) requires us to cooperate with ICE when somebody's country of origin and status is questionable, and that we're in compliance with," Hilkey said. "In fact, in a state legislative audit on that, the state got pretty high marks, so I don't know who might not be doing it."

Lambert told the Denver Daily News that sometimes enforcement of existing state law is "tempered sometimes by local policy."

"We want to clarify what state law is, that's the reason for Senate Bill 54."