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Telluride Confronts Immigration Laws

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Good for Telluride. In the face of speculation about the impact of Colorado’s new anti-immigrant laws, the town has called for a meeting to debunk myths, and importantly, to figure out how to maintain the quality of life for its immigrant population, which it deems essential to the economy of the community.

In a sentence, here’s what Colorado’s new laws provide:

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These laws barricade avenues to social services like housing, health care, post-secondary education and other services to undocumented citizens, as well as force employers to verify the status of their workers.

Telluride, like other Colorado resort communities depend on immigrant labor.

Karla Wieder, who works for the San Miguel Resource Center, said she thinks the community can embark on the path to creative solutions by first coming together with an understanding that the immigrant population fills an indispensible niche in the region’s economy.

“Who is going to clean houses? Who is going to clean hotels? Who is going to do construction work?” she asked, adding that if the immigrant population disappeared, “the whole town would be in trouble.” “I think as a community we have to do something,” Wieder said. “Not just employers, but everyone.”

Telluride’s first step is convene a town meeting.

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In order to dispel these rumors, sort out the exact implications of the laws and search for solutions that will keep intact the civil rights of local citizens, Telluride officials have called a special meeting tonight from 6-8 p.m. at Rebekah Hall. Anyone is invited to attend the meeting, which will bring together representatives from governing boards, social services, businesses, law enforcement, housing authorities and the immigrant population in an attempt to clarify the details of the legislation and look for creative solutions to ensure quality of life for Telluride’s workers.

The meeting is expected to be the first of many.

It’s important to stay ahead of the curve by starting now, said council member Justin Clifton, who added that the issue is one of the most important faced by the town.

“This is going to have to be a community effort to find immediate and real solutions to these problems that we’re facing,” Clifton said. “This is a vital part of our community that is being affected.”

Weider has the right idea:

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Wieder said solutions could be reached by things like teaching employers how to facilitate work visas for their workers. It’s important to have the support of various stake holders, including business owners, government and residents, she said, because in order to find ways around these laws it will take legal expertise, advocates and resources.

“It’s going to be time and energy, but our economy depends on it,” she said.

In other words, Telluride intends to be a town that takes care of all its residents. Rather than sit still and watch their immigrant workers be denied the necessities of life, like health care and other public services, it will search for a way to make them legal and continue to respect and honor the contribution the immigrant workers have made to the community.

Xenophobia just doesn’t appear to be a word in Telluride’s vocabulary, for which the town deserves some major praise.

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