Letter to the editor: Why Colorado's proposed Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act matters

In 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which resulted in more than 7000 detainees, mostly American citizens of Japanese descent, being imprisoned at the Amache Relocation Center near Granada, Colorado from 1942-1945.

At that time, conservative Republican Governor Ralph Carr staunchly defended the Constitution and opposed the creation of the Japanese internment camps in Colorado. He said, “An American citizen of Japanese descent has the same rights as any other citizen… If you harm them, you must first harm me.”  Bold, brave words.  

Today, in a similar climate of fear and mistrust, there is a renewed focus on race, nationality, religious belief and refugee and immigration status as the basis for determining if someone poses a threat to the United States.

Registries and more extreme vetting measures are proposed as a way to deal with these fears. Registries don’t work. After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration created the controversial National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which required foreign nationals from 25 countries, mostly Muslim, to check in with the government before entering and leaving the country. Some foreigners living in the United States were also required to report regularly to immigration officials.

Over 80,000 people were registered with NSEERS, yet there was no reduction in terrorist activity. By 2011, the program had not resulted in any terrorist conviction. The Department of Homeland Security found instead that the program undermined trust in law enforcement and instilled fear in communities.

In regard to vetting, extreme vetting already exists for immigrants from countries impacted by terrorism. It has been in existence since 1980, and involves multiple federal intelligence and security agencies as well as the United Nations. The current vetting process takes between one and two years and includes numerous security checks.

In Colorado, we already know that there comes a point where the overreach of the federal government goes against our values and our U.S. and state constitutions. Republican Governor Ralph Carr had the courage of his conviction to point out that the federal government had gone too far, and supporters of the Ralph Carr bill feel the same.

The tenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the State’s rights to curtail federal overreach. In alignment with this amendment, Rep. Salazar and Rep. Daneya Esgar have co-sponsored the Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act (HB 1230) which protects Colorado’s state rights by mandating that Colorado law enforcement officers not assist any federal overreach that would set up a registry for Muslims, create internment camps, or attempt to identify individuals by their race, religion, nationality, or color of their skin – all of which go against our American and Colorado values and our US and State Constitutions.

Salazar stated that this bill was based soundly on Supreme Court decisions: “The Supreme Court said very clearly that it’s not within the state’s power to control immigration,” he said. “That’s why we’re stepping away from it. Go ahead and control it if you want. That’s within your rights. But you’re not going to commandeer and you’re not going to force us to engage in immigration enforcement.”

We live in uncertain times, in a world that is rapidly changing.  Rather than let fear drive public policy, it is essential for us to let reason and the shared recognition of our humanity dictate policies. It is more important than ever to stay steady and true to our values of how to treat one another and not let prejudice determine our decisions. The Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act brings that perspective and balance back into public policy, and deserves our support.


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