‘Ariz.’ bill to get ax in Colo.

Immigration bill had too many problems, lawmaker decided

DENVER – A Republican lawmaker’s Arizona-style immigration bill has been stopped at the border.

The bill’s sponsor said he will kill the bill this morning, before it even has a first hearing.

Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, said his Colorado House Bill 1107 had too many problems to continue.

“After many drafts and hours of deliberation and meetings with entities, we had come to some agreement with agencies out there,” Baumgardner said. “(But) we couldn’t seem to get away from some parts of it that could be possibly unconstitutional.”

Baumgardner’s bill was patterned closely on a controversial Arizona law. Some parts of the Colorado bill were taken word for word from Arizona’s, while other parts were unique.

Both bills told police to contact anyone they suspected of being an illegal immigrant, and they required lawful immigrants to carry their papers on them at all times.

A federal judge blocked major parts of the Arizona law last year after the U.S. Department of Justice and several advocacy groups sued the state. The ongoing lawsuit also played into Baumgardner’s decision to pull his bill, he said.

The bill had been scheduled for its first hearing in the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee next Monday. But Tuesday morning, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, announced that the hearing would be today and legislators would quickly dispose of HB 1107.

A Democrat on the agriculture committee said he didn’t think the bill was needed because Colorado passed a package of tough immigration bills in 2006.

Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, has requested audits to see how well those bills are working to crack down on illegal workers, but the reviews probably won’t be done until June. However, Department of Labor officials told Fischer they have inspected 2,700 employers and do 20 to 40 new audits each week. Inspectors have gone back to about 200 businesses where they found problems.

Fischer said the information gives him some confidence the system is working, and that Baumgardner’s bill went too far.

“I certainly don’t want to support anything that betrays the fundamental values that have been our strength throughout the years,” he said.

Baumgardner’s bill was the centerpiece of a slate of bills that Colorado Republicans drafted after visiting their counterparts in Arizona last year. A second bill, Senate Bill 54, would give local police the power to stop suspected illegal immigrants.

The bill is likely to die at its first hearing Feb. 16 in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Baumgardner also faced a potentially hostile panel with the House Agriculture Committee. Many farmers and ranchers complained that the 2006 bills drove away the legal immigrants they hired.

Baumgardner negotiated closely with agricultural lobbying groups.

“I can’t say they were happy with it, but they were probably neutral on the bill,” he said.

Baumgardner is not sure if he will try to draft a new bill this year.

jhanel@durango herald.com