- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2005

DENVER — Coloradans fed up with what they call an “invasion” of their state say they will push for a ballot initiative after a legislative panel killed a bill that would have denied state services to illegal immigrants.

A House legislative committee defeated the bill 6-5 Tuesday in a straight party-line vote, with the Democrats voting against the proposal and the Republicans voting for it.

Undeterred, bill sponsor Republican Rep. David Schultheis said he would try another tactic: submitting the same proposal in the form of a concurrent resolution which, if passed by both legislative houses, would put the proposal before the voters in the form of a ballot referendum.

The advantage of a referendum vote is that even lawmakers who disagree with the proposal may support the idea of placing the question before the voters, said William Herron, president of Defend Colorado Now, a group against illegal immigrations.

“With a referendum, legislators don’t have to come out for or against it,” Mr. Herron said. “They can say that they want the voters to have their say.”

Even if that maneuver fails, however, the proposal could well end up on the ballot. Leaders of Defend Colorado Now have vowed to start circulating petitions to put the issue on the November 2006 ballot if the legislature fails to act.

“If our legislature is unwilling to act, the people of Colorado will act,” Mr. Schultheis said yesterday. “This issue is not going to die. I’m not going to let it die.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Democrats argued that the bill could create an anti-immigrant climate and feed “the discrimination and hatred we’re trying to avoid,” said Democratic Rep. Terrence Carroll.

Testifying against the bill was a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued that the measure could require Coloradans to carry identification before accessing state services such as hiking trials.

But the bill’s proponents argued that providing services to illegal immigrants was draining the state budget and siphoning funds from legal residents.

Arizona voters last year approved Proposition 200, which denies state services to illegal immigrants. With nearby states considering similar proposals, Colorado’s failure to act could make the state a magnet for illegal aliens, Mr. Schultheis said.

“We now have Proposition 200 in Arizona, and we have Nebraska, which is getting ready to place something similar on the ballot very shortly,” Mr. Schultheis said. “In the illegal community, word travels very quickly. As other states tighten up their policies, we’ll be a haven for illegal immigrants.”

Mr. Schultheis also objected to those who said the measure’s proponents were promoting “hate.”

“The hate is really directed at the taxpayers of Colorado, because they’re being forced to pay for something they don’t want to pay for,” he said.

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