Group: Plan won't solve problems

Liberal think tank releases report on illegal immigration

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A proposal to stop illegal immigrants from receiving non-emergency state government services would cause more trouble than it's worth, the president of a Denver think tank said Thursday.

Wade Buchanan, president of the Bell Policy Center, said an initiative to restrict services in Colorado to citizens and legal immigrants won't solve the country's immigration problems.

"This is a national problem. It can't be solved at the state level and any effort to do so is bound to backfire on Colorado taxpayers," Buchanan said in a statement Thursday announcing the release of a Bell Policy study on immigration.

The liberal think tank released the study this week in preparation for what Buchanan said would be a major debate in 2006.

"We want to make sure we at least debate based on facts and not on pre-conceived notions," Buchanan said in an interview.

An anti-illegal immigration group called Defend Colorado Now is pushing an amendment to the state's constitution that would restrict government services for illegal immigrants.

The amendment would allow Colorado residents to sue local governments for providing any non-emergency services not mandated by federal law.

Evergreen resident William Herron, chairman of Defend Colorado Now, submitted a proposal in October to state legislative officials in an attempt to get the initiative on next year's ballot.

Herron on Thursday declined to comment on the initiative.

Buchanan said he hopes the study released Thursday, which is based on existing research, will clear up some myths about illegal immigration.

It's a myth that illegal immigrants come to America to take advantage of welfare and other government programs, Buchanan said.

Most undocumented workers are here to do just that -- work, he said.

According to the study, 83 percent of native-born men work, and 86 percent of immigrant men and 90 percent of undocumented men work.

When it comes to costs to government, undocumented immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in government services, Buchanan said.

Undocumented immigrants who have fake Social Security cards pay into a system from which they will never receive money, Buchanan said.

But although illegal immigration can benefit the federal government, it places disproportionate costs on local governments that must bear the cost of educating immigrant children, Buchanan said.

Buchanan said that although Bell Policy opposes the immigration initiative being pushed by Defend Colorado, his group would not actively campaign against it.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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