Arizona immigration law: Critic tells CO reps not to go from bad policy to unconstitutional kind

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

At this writing, a delegation of Colorado lawmakers, including Representative Kent Lambert, is in Arizona to discuss how best to launch a version of the state's controversial immigration law here.

To Julie Gonzales, political coordinator for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, this quest is understandable but wrongheaded in the extreme.

"We're disappointed to see that they're going, and that they're trying to base more bad policy after unconstitutional policy," Gonzales says. "Because what we really need is federal-level reform. We all understand that the system's broken, and there's a deep sense of frustration around that brokenness. But passing more short-sighted state laws doesn't fix anything. It just compounds the problem."

Indeed, Gonzales would like to see "Republicans like Jon Kyl and John McCain get back on board with comprehensive federal immigration reform, because that's ultimately what we need to do to solve the problem."

There's little likelihood of that happening. In Arizona, the death of rancher Rob Krentz fueled a conservative backlash against reformers like McCain, who's moved dramatically to the right in an attempt to stave off a primary challenge by J.D. Hayworth. The vote takes place on August 24.

Whatever McCain's political fate, Gonzales acknowledges that "people are frustrated" about immigration. "They've wanted action on this issue for years. And back in 2008, both candidate McCain and candidate Obama talked about fixing the broken immigration system. I still distinctly remember Spanish-language radio ads from candidate McCain talking about comprehensive immigration reform, and candidate Obama talked about taking on immigration reform in the first year after his election."

Recently, President Obama signed a bill containing millions for increased security along the Mexico-U.S. border. But in Gonzales's view, "that won't solve the root cause of what's going on. People are like, 'If that's all we can get, let's take it. Because we need to do something.' But ultimately, it's just putting a Band-Aid on the issue -- which is, at its core, a federal issue."

At this point, many controversial provisions of the Arizona law are on hold thanks to the action of a federal judge, who issued an injunction in response to a U.S. government lawsuit. Gonzales believes these portions of the measure will ultimately be ruled unconstitutional -- so she's puzzled why Colorado legislators would apparently be interested in emulating them.

"We have so many huge issues facing the state: the economy, the budget, getting people back to work, solving the foreclosure crisis here," she says. "We have more important things to talk about than how to pass an unconstitutional law.

"We need to have a deeper conversation about a complex policy -- and it needs to happen in Congress, not at Colfax and Broadway."

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.