Defend Colorado Now's Elbel Responds To Rep. Schultheis
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From:  Fred Elbel [e-mail him]

Re: Representative David Schultheis' column: Lessons From Colorado: Partisan Warfare Defeats Patriotic Purpose

On behalf of Defend Colorado Now, I am responding to Representative Schultheis' off-the-wall criticism of our organization.

What really happened in Colorado?

DCN gathered 30,000 petition signatures in May, 2006 for our initiative to deny public benefits to illegal aliens.

Then in June, after what many saw as a deliberate delay, the Colorado Supreme Court killed the initiative, claiming that it addressed multiple topics as prohibited under Colorado law.

As former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm has noted,

"Black robes cannot conceal political activism in the Court."

Colorado Governor Bill Owens lambasted the Supreme Court, and subsequently called a special July legislative session to address illegal immigration.

Owens could have chartered the legislature to refer the initiative directly to the ballot, bypassing the need for signatures. DCN did not abandon this option. Yet we were acutely aware that the initiative would likely have had to battle against several million dollars of opposing campaign ads.

And even if the voters had passed the initiative in November, it would have been challenged in court by the well-funded open borders lobby. Upon surviving another Court challenge, the legislature then would have been mandated with implementing the initiative in 2007, without the pressure of election-year public scrutiny.

Our "meeting of the minds" between DCN, our opposition and key Democrats was not a capitulation. Rather it was a very successful attempt to salvage immigration reform legislation from unethical Supreme Court meddling.

DCN had successfully mustered a bipartisan initiative campaign through the first half of 2006.

However, when the Court denied the people of Colorado the right to vote on the initiative, we lost bipartisan cohesiveness. Each political party began to use the situation to its own advantage.

As Schultheis stated:

"The immense popularity of the DCN initiative spelled trouble for the Democrats who have blocked legislation on illegal immigration for years. Political analysts were saying that Republicans might well ride DCN to victory in November, possibly even regaining control of the Legislature."

In fact, the Republicans were hoping to use DCN as a wedge to reclaim Democratic legislative seats. If a Republican majority were reclaimed in November, Republicans undoubtedly would push for stronger immigration reform legislation than would Democrats, thus yielding tangible, albeit political results.

As Schultheis stated:

"Lamm's move worked beautifully for the Democrats. The Democratic majority in both houses gave priority to Democrat bills, killing Republican bills on straight party-line votes."

That was the result, but it was not DCN's intent nor was it Lamm's. The Democrats did come to the table where they passed a number of immigration reform bills.

House Bill 1023 limits state services to illegal aliens and embodies the essence of the DCN initiative. It requires states, cities and their agencies to verify that anyone age 18 or older applying for public benefits is in the country legally. Illegal aliens will continue to receive federally mandated services, including emergency medical care and K-12 education. Importantly, the bill mandates use of the federal SAVE program to determine eligibility for benefits.

It is important to note that, in DCN's opinion, this bill does not create a new exempted category of those under 18; those individuals were not subject to strict identity validation before HB 1023, neither are they after the bill passed. It does, however, exempt those applying for pre-natal services from showing ID. Thus the bill is not as strong as we would have desired.

Another bill, HB 1017 requires employers to attest that employees are legally in the country. Although the bill is a good foundation toward requisite employer sanctions against hiring illegal aliens, Schultheis is correct when he notes that it does not mandate use of the federal Basic Pilot program (part of the SAVE program) to verify immigration status. DCN hopes this serious flaw will be corrected in the next legislative session.

The end result: Colorado obtained legislation—not perfect…but quite an accomplishment during the election season.

We'll continue to work for even stronger laws in 2007.

See a comprehensive analysis of what happened on the DCN website.

Elbel is the co-chair of Defend Colorado Now. He was the past director of Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform and Media Liaison for the Minuteman Project during April, 2005.

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