(March 22) – In the first real floor fight of the session, the Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act by Reps. Joe Salazar and Daneya Esgar earned initial approval from the House on second reading this morning. The bill protects Colorado state agencies from being forced to participate in overreaching federal programs targeting religious or ethnic communities.
“We the people are a nation of many and we cannot be divided anymore based on how we look, where we came from or how we pray,” said Rep. Esgar, D-Pueblo, on the House floor. “We are simply saying to the federal government—if you’re asking us to do something that’s illegal and unconstitutional, we will not stand for it here in Colorado.”
“I don’t want history to repeat itself—I want principled legislators to stand together and say we are going to do everything we can to protect Coloradans and show that we care about humanity,” said Rep. Salazar, D-Thornton.
Through several attempted amendments, the House Republicans tried to weaken or alter the bill and to exempt undocumented Coloradans from the protections under the Ralph Carr Act. Had the amendments passed, it would have been a stark departure from settled law that establishes that the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution apply to everyone in the country, regardless of immigration status.
“The reason that we, the USA, are a beacon of hope for the rest of the world, is because the rights of the United States apply to everyone,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver. “Every single amendment in the Constitution applies to everyone in the United States of America.”
Close to the end of the debate, Rep. Phil Covarrubias, R-Brighton, seemed to excuse the internment of Japanese Americans, including U.S. citizens, during World War II. “We keep hearing about how things went down with the Japanese people—for anyone that has never been in the heat of combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all of that was going on—there’s no time to ask questions and find out who is a citizen and who’s not,” he said.
The Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act prohibits state and local governments from giving information about a Coloradan’s race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or religious affiliation to the federal government unless it is for a legal and constitutional purpose.
The bill also prohibits state and local governments from working with the federal government to create or maintain any registries, identify with physical or electronic markers, or intern or detain a person based on race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status or religious affiliation. The bill does not prohibit law enforcement from sharing information about criminals with federal agencies.
HB17-1230 is named after Republican Colorado Governor Ralph Carr, who in response to a 1942 Executive Order signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt vigorously opposed the creation of the Japanese internment camps in Colorado.
The bill continues to the House floor for third reading.