Governor rejects proposal to declare state of emergency over illegal immigration
written by: Adam Schrager 9NEWS Reporter
Created: 11/10/2005 5:20 PM MST - Updated: 11/10/2005 5:27 PM MST


DENVER - Governor Bill Owens announced Thursday he will not declare a state of emergency in Colorado to deal with illegal immigration and therefore, will not use Denver sports arenas to hold undocumented residents until they're deported.

Last month, a citizens group had delivered petitions to the Governor's office requesting he issue an emergency Executive Order designating places like Coors Field and Invesco Field at Mile High as "holding areas for illegal aliens."

"When you bring up such things as holding areas and states of emergency, it distracts from real issues of illegal immigration," said Dan Hopkins, Owens' press secretary. "This is not something that requires a state of emergency. It is something that should have a full-fledged debate."

The state of emergency request was made by a number of immigration activists, including members of the Colorado Minute Men organization who believe the estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants living in Colorado are harming the social and economic health of the state. Members have helped patrol the U.S.-Mexico border in states like Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.

The governors of Arizona and New Mexico declared states of emergency in their respective states earlier this year to free up money to be used on increased security and other areas needed to deal with undocumented residents.

Before announcing his decision, Gov. Owens solicited advice from his legal counsel Jon Anderson on the issue. Anderson concluded that "social and economic impacts caused by illegal immigration do not qualify as a 'disaster' under Colorado law. The Colorado Disaster Emergency Act defines a disaster as 'the occurrence or imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury or loss of life or property resulting from any natural cause or cause of human origin.'"

Further, Hopkins said the Governor had no intention of asking Colorado lawmakers to change state law to allow him to pursue this course of action.

Also at the Capitol on Thursday, a different citizens group delivered a petition to the Governor's office encouraging him to prevent using state tax dollars on "action that is unconstitutional, divisive, mean-spirited and that is motivated by such hatred and ignorance."

Members said they were happy the Governor was not catering to what they called the "extreme elements" involved in this debate, but say the state needs to do more to respect those who reside in Colorado, no matter their citizenship. They compared the concept of "holding areas" to the internment camps used to house anyone of Japanese descent during World War II.

"Governor Owens, we must be a land where people of all colors, all nations and all stations in life are helped and not hindered," said Pastor Patrick Demmer of the Graham Memorial Church in Denver.

Rep. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs), who visited the border this fall and is preparing to introduce legislation next year on the topic, criticized the language and images conjured up by the most recent petition gatherers, specifically comparing the issue to the internment camps.

"This group is trying to evoke images from one of our state's most shameful times, when the government imprisoned innocent citizens simply because of their heritage during a time of war," Schultheis said in a statement released to reporters. "To detain illegal immigrants, who have committed a crime by breaking our immigration laws and living in our country illegally, is to enforce our laws and fulfill our duty to protect our citizens and legal residents."