Join us for a discussion about immigration |

Join us for a discussion about immigration

President Donald Trump’s challenge for lawmakers to replace Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by March is a rare congressional issue that has immediate local implications — in our schools, our workplaces, throughout our communities.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Post Independent will convene a panel for our third Common Ground session of the year to address this question: What would be the right immigration policy for Garfield County?

Discussing the issue with me will be Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky; Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein; Samuel Bernal, who runs Basalt-based La Tricolor Spanish-language radio station; Sheriff Lou Vallario; construction business owner Mark Gould; Colorado Mountain College general counsel Richard Gonzales; and naturalized citizen Yesenia Arreola.

The conversation will be at 6:30 p.m. in the community room at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library, 815 Cooper Ave. The public is invited and will have a chance to ask questions at the end of the session.

This is a politically balanced group, but I don’t expect calls for roundups and mass deportation.

Business leaders such as Jankovsky and Gould are like a good many Colorado Republicans, who recognize the economic importance of our immigrant workforce.

From what I know of the group, we’ll likely hear calls for repair of immigration laws that can’t handle the reality of 11 million people who are in the United States illegally.

Trump’s order to rescind DACA, an Obama executive order that has allowed immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to stay, work and study, is just a piece of U.S. policy to be discussed.

Readers and panelists know the Post Independent’s position on immigration — we advocate active civic outreach to immigrants here legally and otherwise, and policy that affords them dignity and creates a path for lawful residency — but this session is to hear our panelists’ perspectives and discussion with each other. They bring personal, business, law enforcement and educational experience to the conversation.

It’s an acutely important issue economically and to many families. About 30 percent of Garfield County’s population is Hispanic — with many of those people authorized to be in the United States — and the Latino population certain to grow.

I look forward to moderating and listening.

The idea of our Common Ground meetings, scheduled for each quarter of 2017, is that in these politically polarized times, face-to-face conversations in our communities promote civility.

The PI started the Common Ground series in March with a panel of local leaders outlining the top issues facing Garfield and neighboring counties.

We were joined that evening by Jankovsky, Vallario, Gould and Colorado Mountain College President Carrie Besnette Hauser, philanthropist Jim Calaway, Glenwood Springs City Manager Debra Figueroa, Rifle City Councilwoman and hospital executive Annick Pruett and Mind Springs Health Executive Vice President Michelle Hoy.

They identified immigration as one of several key issues, which also included the county’s slow recovery from the Great Recession as natural gas has slumped; housing and the challenge of supporting attainable housing in Garfield County when those people might end up working in Aspen; mental health treatment and Glenwood’s lack of a detox center; and transportation.

In June, our second Common Ground meeting focused on mental health, with the panelists emphasizing the need for preventive efforts, a sustainable detox center and more psychiatric beds.

District Attorney Jeff Cheney estimated that 55-65 percent of the cases his office sees have “a thread of mental health as an issue,” and Vallario called for preventive efforts to get people help before law enforcement gets involved.

In the fourth quarter, after the new Grand Avenue bridge is open, we will bring people together to talk about transportation and how the bridge detour highlighted the interconnected nature of the Colorado and Roaring Fork valleys.

Bringing together local leaders to discuss these issues contributes to understanding and potential solutions.

Next week’s meeting focuses on an issue that cannot be solved locally. Local leaders, though, can send messages both to immigrants living here about their place in the community and to our representatives in Congress.

Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet are co-sponsoring the Dream Act of 2017, which would allow many children brought here illegally to stay and create a path to citizenship.

Our representative in the House, Scott Tipton, said after Trump’s order, “Congress must act to develop a compassionate and commonsense solution for the children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents.”

Those positions don’t address larger immigration questions, but the DACA debate does open them. Our panel next week can contribute to that conversation.

I hope you’ll join us next Tuesday, Sept. 26, for this installment of Common Ground.

Randy Essex is editor and publisher of the Post Independent.

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