New Year Brings New Immigration Rules in Colorado
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
A law taking effect today in Colorado gives that state one of the country's toughest stances on immigration. The legislature has passed a series of measures meant to discourage illegal immigrants from coming to Colorado. One law bars illegals from receiving many state services. That took effect this summer. Today's law's directed at employers.
NPR's Jeff Brady has more from Denver.
JEFF BRADY: Federal law that long required employers to examine several pieces of identification for newly hired employees to make sure they have the right the work in the U.S. Usually, it's a Social Security card and a driver's license. A new Colorado law says employers now must also keep copies of those IDs on file. There will be random audits. Violators face a $5,000 fine the first time, $25,000 for subsequent violations.
To try and get a handle on the new paperwork and bureaucracy, a group of roofing and landscape companies got together recently in a hotel ballroom for a seminar on the immigration law.
Mr. GRAY GRISHAR: For you. How many actually own the business. You are the business owner? How does it feel to be a charger?
BRADY: Gray Grishar helps businesses navigate the nation's immigration laws. Overshadowing everything in Colorado right now is the recent federal raid on Swift meatpacking plants. Grishar says employers feel like they are being asked to be immigration agents.
Another of the speakers, Drew Durham, is with Colorado's Labor and Employment Department. He is the chief enforcer of the new law.
Mr. DREW DURHAM (Colorado's Labor and Employment Department): We want employers to show due diligence in verification of legal work status.
BRADY: There have been widely circulated stories of employers accepting Social Security cards that were obviously fake. It's one thing to sign the federal forms saying you as an employer looked at the documents. it's quite another to know you are now required to keep a paper trail and that auditors may stop by to look over your work.
Landscapers and roofers, along with the agriculture and tourism industries, attract a lot of workers who don't have proper documents. But Durham says they won't be audited anymore than other companies.
Mr. DURHAM: Number one, we want to apply this law uniformly. We're not going to target anybody. It is going to be applied in all parts of the state.
BRADY: Wherever it's applied, it will cost companies money because it creates more work. Katherine King is the controller for a roofing company with about 100 employees. After the seminar, she says she understands most of the new law.
Ms. KATHERINE KING: I'd say 90 percent. I think there is 10 percent that nobody knows.
BRADY: Do you think that 10 percent is what's going to get worked out in court?
Ms. KING: Yeah. I think the 10 percent will make a lot of attorneys really rich. And it will be five to seven years before we know anything.
BRADY: King says she is also frustrated that Colorado has passed this new law. She says the federal government should be dealing with the issue. Immigration lawyer Ann Allott also spoke at the seminar. She says it's becoming increasingly clear that the federal immigration system is broken.
Ms. ANN ALLOTT (Immigration Lawyer): We've had a shadow community in the United States for over 30 years that has been growing. Our Congress has really failed to deal with this issue. And that's why governments like the state of Colorado are so frustrated in their inability to control what's happening within their states.
BRADY: Allott says she believes Colorado's law is unconstitutional and will eventually be challenged in court.
Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.
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