100,000 will have to prove status

Via RockyMountainNews.com

State’s clients must show legal residency

A new immigration law that takes effect Tuesday will require more than 100,000 people served by the Colorado Department of Human Services to prove that they are in the country legally.

Foster care parents, child care providers, welfare and low-income energy-assistance recipients, and a wide range of mentally and developmentally disabled and elderly clients will need to comply with stricter ID requirements created by House Bill 1023.

State lawmakers, during a special legislative session that ended July 10, passed the landmark law – designed to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving taxpayer-funded benefits – that is expected to be signed soon by Gov. Bill Owens.

Starting Tuesday, people applying for most DHS benefits, as well as current recipients filing the required annual recertification, will need to sign an affidavit attesting to their legal immigration status.

They will also need to provide a Colorado driver’s license or state-issued ID (or a U.S. Merchant Mariner card or a Native American tribal document).

The new law won’t apply to people receiving federal food stamps because federal law supersedes state law, and federal law allows recipients to use a wider variety of IDs to qualify.

The new law exempts people receiving emergency services and children under 18.

The agency is awaiting guidance on whether programs for the elderly under the Older Americans Act, such as home-delivered meals and in-home services, will be affected by HB 1023, said DHS spokeswoman Liz McDonough.

“It’s a difficult law to implement because, No. 1, it’s not been done by any other state . . . and the time frame has been a challenge,” she said.

The Colorado State Board of Human Services issued rules about the implementation of HB 1023 during an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon, McDonough said.

The board issued a 22-page set of rules that will be given to county agencies and advocacy groups. The board was unable to identify the cost of complying with the new law or any potential savings that could come from denying services to illegal immigrants.

Most DHS services are administered by county agencies. Government workers already check immigration status through Social Security numbers for many programs. Citizenship or a certain level of legal immigration status already is required to qualify for most DHS services.

“What this represents is a higher standard of identification and verification,” McDonough said.

About 500,000 people receive benefits through DHS.

The low-income energy program known as LEAP serves nearly 100,000 households. LEAP clients won’t begin applying for benefits until November.

Some DHS clients, including the severely disabled, mentally ill and elderly, will have great trouble obtaining the new forms of ID. The state Department of Revenue is expected to issue a temporary waiver process to address this problem, allowing certain groups more time to obtain the required ID without halting services.

The attorney general’s office also is expected to give state agencies guidelines about the new law in coming days.

“There are still issues that are being clarified – as that clarification comes, we will re-evaluate,” McDonough said.

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