Gov. Owens: Colorado Can't Wait for Federal Government to Stop Illegal Immigrants

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Colorado should not wait for the federal government to stop illegal immigration but should implement its own plans, Gov. Bill Owens said Wednesday.

The Republican governor told the Joint Budget Committee, which held hearings Wednesday to discuss the cost of illegal immigration, that Colorado spends about $560 million a year supporting illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children, who become legal citizens.

He said the cost falls most heavily on local governments and the federal government is doing little to help.

"I wish the federal government were a better ally," said Owens, who has been a strong supporter of President Bush.

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Owens told lawmakers the state could sharply reduce the number of illegal immigrants in Colorado by setting up a secure identification system, requiring job applicants to present a driver's license or identity card before they could get a job.

Owens had already called the Legislature into a special session, which opens Thursday, in part to consider an immigration measure.

The Supreme Court last month disqualified a petition initiative for the November ballot that would have asked voters to cut off most state services to people who are in the country illegally.

The court said the petition illegally addressed more than one subject. Owens wants lawmakers to place the issue on the ballot directly to avoid the court's objection.