A Coloradan's immigration plea to Congress

By John Andrews On May 17 in Washington DC, the same afternoon Senate Republicans and the Bush administration were capitulating to Ted Kennedy and Democrats on amnesty for illegal aliens, I was urging the opposite policy as a witness before the House Immigration Subcommittee, with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) presiding and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) as the ranking minority member. This was my testimony:

Mme. Chairman and committee, Colorado is close to the front line of America’s unsecured southern border. We are a conduit for massive illegal traffic into this country. I dealt with the consequences as Senate President, 2003-2005. I bring you an appeal from our state to build the fence and secure the border first and foremost. I urge you not to reward lawbreakers with green cards and citizenship.

People in my state are self-reliant in their way of life, optimistic in their outlook, and welcoming to newcomers from anywhere in the world. We are not complainers, and we are not alarmists.

But we know a problem when we see one, and we expect a bargain to be kept. Right now millions of Coloradans see the invasion of illegal aliens as an urgent problem for our state, and we attribute that problem to the federal government’s failure to keep its bargain with Americans everywhere for secure borders and the rule of law.

Amnesty for illegal aliens was supposed to fix this problem 20 years ago. It did not. Estimates today put the illegal alien population of Colorado at somewhere between 250,000 to 750,000 people – as much as 15 percent of the entire population.

Our schools, our health care system, and our criminal justice system are groaning under this burden. Our common culture and common language are fraying. We feel that Washington has let us down. It seems Congress and the White House just don’t care.

Most of those individuals who broke the law to come here or stay here are probably good people with good motives. But we cannot be sure. Some may be enemy sleepers with deadly intent. Nor can we be sure how many of them are actually here, or what countries they came from.

I can tell you that their country of origin does not matter at all to my fellow Coloradans. What matters is their disruptive impact on our state – disrupting self-government, disrupting safe neighborhoods, disrupting affordable public services.

Feeling betrayed by federal inaction, Coloradans last year started a petition to protect affordable public services by restricting them to legal residents only, except in emergencies or by federal mandate. The petition was called Defend Colorado Now. I was one of four co-chairmen, Democrats and Republicans, Anglos and Hispanics, leading that campaign.

A study done for our group, based on documented statistics in the public record, found that illegal aliens were costing state taxpayers over $1 billion a year through the extra burden on services -- and reducing family paychecks by another $2 billion a year through lower wages. (See full study at www.defendcoloradonow.org .)

In 2005, Colorado voters had approved a ballot issue to raise taxes by about $1 billion a year – which would not have been necessary if the federal government had kept its bargain for secure borders. In 2006 Coloradans set out to do what we could about the problem ourselves. Our petition fell short, but it did push the legislature into passing some of the toughest ID requirements and workplace sanctions of any state.

The legislature also asked voters to approve a lawsuit against the US Attorney General, demanding enforcement of federal immigration laws in order to give us some budgetary relief in the areas of health care, law enforcement, criminal defense and incarceration, and education. It passed by a landslide and the Colorado lawsuit is now in federal court. We’re not holding our breath, but it shows the public impatience on this issue.

I grew up in a Colorado mountain town called Buena Vista. This week there was a national news report alleging that radical Islamists have a paramilitary training camp at Buena Vista. I wonder if some of them are illegal aliens, similar to the Fort Dix cell that was recently broken up. That’s the risk we take with an unsecured border in the middle of a global war.

As the father of a Denver police officer, I have to take such threats seriously. One of my son’s fellow officers, Donald Young, was brutally murdered by an illegal alien two years ago this month. My son has a T-shirt that says “Never Forget.” Coloradans have not forgotten, but we can’t solve this problem without your help in Congress.

The help we need is for you to build the fence and secure the border, period. No amnesty for lawbreakers. No so-called comprehensive solution for cheap votes and cheap labor. Just stop the invasion.

Thank you for the opportunity to present my state’s concerns.