There's no shortage of half-baked immigration "reform" plans that have been floated or formally proposed at the state and federal level over the years. Keeping track of all of them is a full-time job, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and assert that a recent "Purple Card" bill that would grant permanent legal status to some illegal immigrants in Colorado could be the dumbest and most reckless immigration-related proposal that I've ever seen.
The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Dan Pabon, a Democrat, would allow anyone who has paid state taxes for at least two years and hasn't had a felony in three years to be eligible for a "purple card", which would in this weird Confederacy 2.0-esque plan, give them permanent legal status. (Child molesters who arrived three years ago and were convicted four years ago would be fine?)
Pabon's justification for his preposterous proposal is even more laughable than the plan itself. The bill, if it is ever passed, would create a Gold Rush-type movement of people, mostly poor and unskilled, from developing countries the likes of which no U.S. state has ever seen. And Pabon's justification for his preposterous proposal was even more laughable than the plan itself. He told Denver's CBS affiliate that it would somehow help taxpayers.
"The alternative is two-fold," he said. "One, you're either going to be relying on the social safety net that is going to have a lot of people asking for food banks and all these other things; or you're going to have folks who are still going to work, but just work in the black market and neither of those is acceptable policy for us in Colorado."
I'm a former Foreign Service officer who understands how information and, more importantly disinformation, travels in developing countries with large numbers of aspiring migrants. If Colorado creates this purple card, few aspiring immigrants will hear about the residency requirements, or they might hear about them but will be desperate enough to try to get there and try their luck anyway. The message that will be heard is "Colorado is giving out something kind of like green cards!"
Migrants will arrive in Colorado, see if they can get the purple card, and, even if they can't, they'll stick around. Most will be poorly educated and will impose a burden on taxpayers, schools, and other public services. And, of course, some will move to other states in the Union, places where voters still expect the federal government, and not one or more states, to enact and enforce immigration laws.
Pabon was arrested for drunk driving on St. Patrick's Day 2016, and apparently tried to pull rank, using his status as a legislator, in order to try to weasel out of it. And so this is apparently someone who, even though he has a law degree, doesn't quite grasp the rule-of-law concept to begin with. I called his office recently to share my opinion on the bill and to see if he was serious about it. Apparently he is.
A friendly aide I spoke to patiently listened to my comments and, when she heard that I lived in Oregon, she said, "Wait, you live in Oregon? Do you follow Denver politics? How did you find out about this?"
What I don't think she, her boss, and many other state and local legislators who don't know beans about immigration, but propose legislation nonetheless, don't understand is that when it comes to migration the old axiom "all politics is local" does not apply.
I suppose (and pray) the bill won't pass, but if it does, the consequences will reverberate across the country and the world. It bears repeating here that it's not up to people like Dan Pabon to determine who can and who cannot live in the United States of America. But misguided state and local officials like him across the country, from city councilpersons to governors, all essentially acting like modern-day Jefferson Davises, are stepping forward with plans pandering to people who have no legal right to be here.
California wants to prosecute employers who follow federal immigration law. Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and various other cities issue forms of ID to illegal immigrants, helping them access city services and put down roots here. California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont are sanctuary states, as are dozens of counties and municipalities across the country. Cities like San Antonio and Sacramento devote funds and city legal services to help illegal immigrants fight deportations. In College Park, Md., a measure that would have allowed illegal aliens to vote in local elections was proposed, but failed in a close vote by the city council. Portland, Ore., and perhaps other cities, are considering trying the same thing. In case you haven't noticed, living here illegally is becoming almost fashionable in some parts of the country.
Those who want looser immigration restrictions need to use the democratic process to elect representatives at the federal level who will carry out their wishes. Instead, we have what seems like a growing States Rights movement on the Left that wants to pretend like state and local officials have a right to determine federal immigration law. And so-called legal experts and liberal judges who share their sensibilities seem determined to strip the president and Congress of their powers simply because they're impatient or know that what they want will never happen.
Take, for example, this story in the Denver Post about Denver becoming a sanctuary city. The Post reporter quotes Annie Lai, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, as an expert on immigration law and sanctuary cities.
"A part of the issue here is that in local jurisdictions, the people responsible for them have to be able to make decisions that are appropriate for their own community," she said. Lai also conceded that city legislators can't decide who can "come to the U.S.," but her point was clear, and I think, fairly representative of what I think is a very dangerous and reckless mentality that seems to be spreading.
If you're a law professor in California, it might seem fully appropriate for city councilors or state legislators like Dan Pabon to pass laws that undermine and usurp the ability of the federal government to enforce immigration laws and protect our borders. But I think everyone else needs a reality check, and local officials who want to take on immigration reform need to run for higher office, or, better yet, just drop it.