State lawmakers have passed a bill that repeals a much-criticized 2006 law requiring local law enforcement to report anyone they suspect of being undocumented to federal immigration authorities. The bill, HB1258, now heads to the governor's desk.
Immigrant advocate Justin Valas credits the bill's passage partly to "having people come out and share their stories," he says. Showing the human impact of so-called "show me your papers" laws is powerful, he adds. A new report endeavors to do more of that.
The report is called "The High Cost of Immigration Enforcement in Colorado," and it is a companion to a report released back in December. The earlier report found that Colorado spends about $13 million a year to enforce a law known as SB90 -- the very same law that HB1258 would repeal. The new report focuses on the social and economic consequences of SB90, which it found are even more costly.
Since the law was passed in 2006, local law enforcement has reported an average of 24,200 people to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement each year, according to the report, which was authored by the Colorado Fiscal Institute. The report's authors found that those people end up waiting in jail for days for ICE to pick them up.
Judging by the experiences of a hundred callers to a hotline "aimed at collecting stories of abuse between public safety officials and ICE," the report's authors figured that the social and economic cost of each undocumented immigrant reported to ICE is $1,300. That figure represents "wages lost during the detention, the hours reduced and job losses that occur as a consequence of the detention, and the family members' lost hours as they assist the individual at police stations and through litigation," the report says.
"Given the estimated 24,200 individuals reported to ICE each year, a shocking $31 million of spending in the state economy is lost per year as a consequence of Colorado holding people in local jails for ICE," the report says. "The $31 million lost spending translates into potentially $2.7 million in lost tax revenue."
"This report was intended to show that there are bigger impacts that affect all of us, even if it's not a tax dollar paid to a county jail," says Kathy White, the deputy director of the Colorado Fiscal Institute. "There is overall spending in the economy."
HB1258 passed its final hurdle in the state legislature on Monday. It's now up to Governor John Hickenlooper to sign the bill, which is supported by the County Sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and the Colorado Municipal League.
Supporters say removing the requirement that local police report undocumented immigrants to ICE will make communities safer by restoring immigrants' faith in law enforcement. If immigrants don't trust the police, they're less likely to report crimes.
"Sheriffs and police officers rely on witnesses and victims of crime to help us solve cases, so we want to make sure the community at large feels comfortable in confiding in us," Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said in a press release.
Colorado still participates in Secure Communities, a federal program that checks fingerprints of people booked into local jails against a national database of undocumented immigrants that's maintained by ICE.
But Valas, the policy and advocacy coordinator for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, says repealing SB90 "removes some of that front-end profiling piece.... We had this law that said, 'You need to find undocumented people and bring them in and report them to ICE.' We've removed that, so we'll hopefully see a reduction in that practice."
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More from our Immigration archives: "Immigration: Supporters rally to stop the deportation of Imelda Valenzuela Gonzalez."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org