Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, today introduced a controversial bill that would allow law enforcement officers to arrest–without a warrant–anyone who they believe may be an illegal alien.
Lambert has said in the past that he wants to enact a measure similar to a law passed in Arizona last year that garnered national attention. Among other things, the Arizona law allows peace officers to arrest anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.
The Colorado version isn’t nearly that broad, Lambert said, because the Legislature’s single-title restriction doesn’t give him the leeway to include as many provisions as the Arizona law. What his measure does is give officers the right to arrest anyone they suspect of having committed a felony, could be extradited or detained by the federal government, or if they’re in violation of any other federal law. That includes being in the U.S. illegally.
The bill doesn’t give carte blanche to officers to arrest anyone they choose, said Lambert. It requires officers to show probable cause for their arrests.
“It’s an anti-criminal bill,” said Lambert. “Probable cause is a pretty high threshold.”
Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said the bill undermines the abilities of local police to solve crimes with the help of residents.
“If you really think that I might think that you are not here legally, then why would you ever interact with the police? Why would you partner with them?” Morse said. “It starts to focus on illegal immigration, and to hell with gang violence and those kinds of things.”
He also said the bill would unfairly make local officers responsible for enforcing federal law.
“”We’re not doing it at the street level, where it’s like, ‘I’ve got probable cause, your skin is brown, you can’t provide me a driver’s license right this minute, so you’re here illegally,’” he said.
Lambert retorted that if the law is being broken, then the perpetrator should be punished accordingly.
“If there’s evidence of probable cause that they should be arrested, why should we not arrest them?” he said.
Julien Ross, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said the bill would be “a nightmare” for the state if it becomes law.
“I find it mind-boggling that a handful of senators would pursue the same kind of legislation that has cost the state of Arizona millions of dollars,” said Ross.
He pointed out that Arizona faced a national boycott after their law passed, and said tourists and skiers may choose to visit other states that don’t have “the black eye of anti-immigration legislation.”
The bill is being co-sponsored by other Colorado Springs Republicans, including Sen. Bill Cadman, Sen. Keith King, Rep. Mark Barker, Rep. Janak Joshi, and Rep. Mark Waller. Sen. Mark Scheffel, of Parker, represents a northern portion of El Paso County, and is also a co-sponsor.