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Jeanfromfillmore 05-02-2011 04:33 PM

Colo. bill punishes concealing illegal immigrants
Colo. bill punishes concealing illegal immigrants
DENVER (AP) People who conceal illegal immigrants would face criminal charges and employers who fail to show proof that their workers are in the country legally would be fined under a Republican proposal getting its first hearing Monday.
The Republican attempt to take another crack at immigration enforcement before this year's session ends is drawing strong criticism from immigration rights advocates, who say friends and relatives of illegal immigrants would be criminalized for not reporting their loved ones to authorities.
"I think this bill is clearly a cheap attempt to pander to anti-immigrant sentiment at the expense of real public policy," said Hans Meyer, the policy director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.
Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, said his proposal is about jobs and making sure immigrants who came here lawfully are the ones who get them.
"This is about jobs and the economy, period. And yes, being here legally whether you're an immigrant or whether you're a citizen," he said.
A House committee was scheduled to hear testimony on the bill Monday before taking a vote.
Republicans have introduced several immigration enforcement bills this session. While they have had some success in getting bills out of the House, where they have a one-vote advantage, their proposals don't get far in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Less than two weeks remain in the legislative session.
Under House Bill 1309, people could face a misdemeanor charge if they conceal an illegal immigrant or if they "recklessly" disregard their status. The bill provides exceptions for emergency responders or child protective services workers.
The measure would also require employers to provide proof to the state's labor department that employees are in the country legally. Employers would be fined $5,000 for first offense and $25,000 for second offense.
Other provisions in the bill seek to stop human smuggling by allowing law enforcement to stop vehicles when they have "reasonable suspicion" of a traffic violation, a lower legal standard than probable cause. The bill also makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to apply or solicit work in a public place, and make it illegal to stop and block traffic to pick up people to transport them to a work site.
Meyer said those provision raise Constitutional concerns about freedom of speech and they're similar to portions of Arizona's immigration law being challenged in court.
Baumgardner pushed another Arizona-style crack down on illegal immigration earlier this year but he shelved his bill over concerns that the proposal would be challenged in court. He said he's more confident about this proposal.
"This is not an Arizona immigration bill whatsoever. This is about employment, legal employment, in the state Colorado," he said.

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