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Colorado legislature passes bill requiring proof of citizenship for public benefits

[JURIST] Colorado state lawmakers passed a bill [HB 06S-1023 text, PDF] Monday that will force residents receiving state or federal benefits to prove their citizenship in order to continue receiving aid, in what some are calling one of the toughest illegal immigration measures in the country. The legislation will deny non-emergency state benefits to approximately 50,000 illegal immigrants currently receiving aid, out of an estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants in the state. The deal reached between Democratic lawmakers and Republican Gov. Bill Owens [official website] will force one million people to prove their Colorado residency before they can collect taxpayer-funded benefits. Also on Monday, Owens agreed to sign a bill [HB 06S-1017 text, PDF] that will require employers to verify the legal status of their employees. Owens wanted a stricter version of both bills [press release], but later agreed to a compromise.

The Colorado measures come amid US Congress negotiations on comprehensive immigration reform [JURIST news archive]. President Bush has urged lawmakers to find a compromise [JURIST report] between the Senate version [S 2611 summary; JURIST report], which includes a pathway to citizenship favored by Bush, and the House bill [HR 4437 summary; JURIST report], which focuses on law enforcement. AP has more. The Denver Post has local coverage.

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