The trade organization for Colorado's ski and snowboard industry is keeping a close eye on a half-dozen immigration bills proposed in the state Legislature this session, although few stand much chance of passing this time around.
"If you're in the business of putting out the welcome mat for foreign visitors, it doesn't help if you create an environment of suspicion," Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, told OnTheSnow.
Of particular interest is a bill that would authorize police officers to make an arrest without a warrant if they have "probable cause that the person is an alien" who is in the United States illegally, according to Senate Bill 54 on the Colorado Legislature web site. Introduced by Colorado Springs Republican Kent Lambert, the bill resembles legislation passed in Arizona that has reportedly hurt the convention and tourism business in that state.
"We are not sure that vague laws regarding documents should be on our books," Mills said. "We have to question how officers will make the determination that someone is illegal. Is it speaking a foreign language? Or wearing a different style of jacket?"
Mexico and Brazil have become two of the top international markets for Colorado resorts, Mills said, particularly after Canada added a visa requirement for visitors from selected countries.
"Generally, visitors from all foreign countries are willing to spend money on their ski holidays," said Mills. "We'd like that to continue in Colorado."
A half-dozen immigration bills have been raised in the Colorado Legislature, as the issue of undocumented foreigners settling and working in Western states gains traction. Similar bills have been proposed in Utah this session, and the Colorado governor's race in 2010 featured a former Congressman whose singular issue was immigration.
"The experience with Arizona hasn't been great for the convention and tourism business down there," Mills said.
Right now, the Colorado Senate has a Democratic majority that won't likely let such legislation get far. In addition, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has publicly said he would veto any bill that would loosen probable cause standards. However, Coloradoans have found ballot initiatives to be a convenient method for bypassing the partisanship at the Statehouse, and Lambert did say during his recent campaign that he would try to put the issue on a future ballot, if it didn't pass in the Legislature.
Several e-mails from OnTheSnow to Lambert's office were not answered.
"It's not surprising that this would come up now," Mills said. "There's a group of folks for whom immigration is the core issue. But I don't know if there is broad enough public support for it right now."