Colorado’s rush job on immigration reform
Colorado’s new get-tough laws dealing with illegal immigrants could prove helpful to state lawmakers seeking re-election.Just how helpful the laws will be to Colorado is a whole other question.In a short special session earlier this month, the state legislature passed bills denying most nonemergency state services to adult illegal immigrants and requiring employers to verify the legal status of employees.These arguably may be sound immigration reforms. But illegal immigration is a national matter. Solutions should be determined at a national level, not instituted in a patchwork fashion by individual states, each struggling to decide what reforms are best and how to enforce them. Colorado’s actions put its employers at a disadvantage compared to other states where companies aren’t held to as high a standard in determining if employees are in the country legally.What Colorado lawmakers and Gov. Bill Owens instituted doesn’t address the deeper national issue. Is the United States truly prepared to send illegal workers back home, suffer the hit to its labor force, and adequately secure its borders in the future?Colorado lawmakers could have argued that they had lost hope of Congress ever doing anything, and decided to take action on their own. But that action could have waited until the regular session next year, rather than being rushed through in a few days with little debate – a move driven by the boost both political parties hoped it might give them at the ballot box. Now state and local agencies are left to sort through the implications of the new laws and determine how to implement them. No doubt some legislative fixes will be needed down the road once some of the unintended consequences of the reforms become more apparent.It will be interesting to see the degree to which charitable organizations are left to fill voids in service resulting from the reforms, and whether cutting aid for purposes such as residential energy assistance prove to be overly harsh treatment even for people living here illegally.National immigration reform is needed. Laws against illegal immigration should be respected and enforced, and the desire to deny illegal immigrants aid is understandable. But there also needs to be a means of accommodating at least part of the sizable immigrant work force on which this country has come to rely. And enforcement should focus on the source of the problem – employers who hire illegals – through creation of a system by which companies can make sure of the legality of the people they are hiring, and know that they will be punished if they violate the law.The problem of illegal immigration didn’t arise in a few days. It’s going to take far more than one state legislature working a couple of days to undertake meaningful immigration reform.
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Economics may seem complex, but it’s actually common sense, which explains why politicians have difficulty considering the economic effects of their legislation.