POINT: John Cooke

We have a crisis at our southern border. Detention facilities are operating at over one hundred percent capacity, and the pictures taken by Republican senators who visited reveal abysmal conditions. Last week, children were filmed being thrown over a ten-foot wall.

Now, overwhelmed with the surge, the Biden administration is releasing many of those illegally crossing the border into the interior of the country. Instead of addressing the crisis, Democrat Sen. Julie Gonzales thinks Colorado should further cripple the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify lawbreakers. Her bill, “Concerning Measures to Protect Personal Identifying Information Kept by State Agencies,” prohibits state agency employees from sharing personal information, most importantly immigration status, with federal agencies like ICE.

The bill is being sold as a privacy issue, but that’s misleading. Law already prohibits state agencies from sharing the personal information described in Senate Bill 131. All the bill does is extend the existing laws to state employees themselves, even though no evidence suggests there’s a significant problem with state employees providing this information on their own accord.

Worsening this ineffective bill is the price tag. The bill originally cost 95 million dollars. It has since been amended and that astronomical cost will come down somewhat, but it certainly won’t be free; and considering that it addresses a problem that doesn’t exist, any price is too high. Whatever the bill costs, it will be paid by Colorado taxpayers in the midst of an economic recovery that has destroyed jobs and businesses.

Ironically, while supporting the privacy rights of illegal immigrants, Colorado Senate Democrats are simultaneously refusing to do the same for law-abiding Coloradans. Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s Senate Bill 159, “Prohibit Electronic Transfer Of Records,” designed to protect the privacy rights of Colorado citizens, was killed in committee. Colorado Senate Democrats have shown where their priorities lie, and it is not with citizens.

For Gonzales, substance isn’t the goal. The goal is to send a message that, if you break the law coming to this country, Colorado will support you. Gonzales is sponsoring multiple bills to protect illegal immigrants, including one that would give illegal immigrants public housing benefits.

Policies like SB 131 create situations like the one at the border. When we tell people we will overlook their lawbreaking, give them free housing, and protect their privacy under the penalty of law, of course they will come in mass numbers. Now, thanks to the foolish Biden administration policies that Colorado Senate Democrats want to mimic, we are in a crisis that gives no sign of ending anytime soon.

The more barriers we put up for ICE, the more dangerous for Coloradans. These attempts to protect illegal immigrants deter ICE’s important work fighting human trafficking and ensuring we know who is in our country.

As a sovereign country, we ought to know exactly whom we are letting in. There is no inalienable right to live in America, yet some politicians want to give illegal immigrants a shield to protect them from federal agencies.

The price of this political self-promotion and pandering is more than just wasted money. Bills like this put Coloradans in danger. At a time when the borders are under a strain almost unprecedented in American history, Democrats should be looking for ways to support and reinforce our immigration system, not undermine the rule of law.

Coloradans would be better served if Democrats in the General Assembly put their back into helping citizens recover from the crisis that has rocked our state for the last thirteen months.

COUNTER: Stephanie Izaguirre

No, state agencies and employees should not share the personal information of immigrants with ICE. As someone who regularly supports and assists immigrants obtain legal status in the US, this seems like an obvious position. But not sharing personal information with ICE is also a good idea that makes all community members safer, regardless of immigration status.

There are several reasons why sharing information with ICE is a harmful idea and bad for Colorado. First, in 2013, Colorado made a commonsense change in the law to provide driver’s licenses to Colorado residents regardless of immigration status. This new law meant that in Colorado, we focused on our drivers being regulated and driving safely and didn’t confuse the issue of immigration status with safe driving. This new law has been a great success because more Colorado drivers are now licensed, providing greater accountability, we have greater safety on the roads, and increased revenue for the state. These are all wins for the entire state.

If undocumented people are afraid their personal information will be shared with ICE, they will not apply for a driver’s license, defeating the entire point of having driver’s licenses for all. Sharing personal information with ICE threatens to undo the progress we’ve made in Colorado towards safer driving. Although it looks on the surface that sharing information will impact only undocumented immigrants, in reality this information sharing harms the entire community. When fewer drivers are licensed or able to obtain insurance, this puts everyone on the roads at risk.

Second, in the current pandemic, it is imperative that sick people get access to healthcare and that people who want to be vaccinated can do so, regardless of immigration status. As we’ve heard repeatedly this last year, we are all impacted by the decisions of those around us. However, if people are afraid that going to the emergency room or getting vaccinated will give their personal information to ICE, they will not seek those services. More sick people or fewer vaccinated people hurts all of us.

Third, there are many undocumented parents who have children who are US citizens. These children have the same rights and access to food and medical assistance as any other child in the US but commonly, the fear that the parents’ information will be shared with ICE has often caused the parents to drop their children’s Medicaid or not ask for food assistance. Again, while the most harm is suffered by these children, our community overall is also harmed when our children are hungry or without access to medical care.

Finally, Colorado has a long-standing tradition of independence and doing things our own way. We don’t need the federal government looking over our shoulder or worse, digging through our data. We are an independent-minded state that has always been willing to do what we thought was best for Colorado regardless of the federal government’s position.

Having the ICE using our community members’ information without even a warrant goes against our fundamental ideas of what it means to be a Coloradan.

SB21-131 is a bill currently before the Colorado Legislature this session that would prohibit sharing personal information obtained by the State of Colorado with ICE by agency employees. The bill would prevent Personal Identifying Information (PII) given to the DMV and CDLE from being shared with ICE or any other person or entity who would use the information for immigration enforcement. The bill is a commonsense solution that that makes all of us safer in our communities and should be supported by anyone who supports safer communities.

Sen. John Cooke, R-Weld County, represents Senate District 13 in the Colorado General Assembly and serves as Assistant Minority Leader. Stephanie Izaguirre is an attorney for immigrants and children and lives in Colorado Springs.

Sen. John Cooke (R - Weld County) represents Senate District 13 in the Colorado General Assembly and serves as Assistant Minority Leader. Stephanie Izaguirre is an attorney for immigrants and children and lives in Colorado Springs.

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