Effort to help immigrants would reduce some sentences by one day

Published: Apr. 12, 2018 at 9:46 PM MDT
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A state committee has been created concerning changing the maximum jail sentence for certain crimes from one year to 364 days.

What a difference a day makes you ask?

For immigrants with legal status, they could run into problems if they commit a crime that carries a penalty of one year or more. A bipartisan effort is moving forward that would change sentencing for certain small crimes to max out at 364 days, 1 day short of a year.

Senator Don Coram (R-Montrose) is sponsoring the bill. He told The Denver Post it is a very serious problem in the agricultural and construction community.

"Without migrant workers to prune the trees and pick the fruit you're not going to have a fruit crop," said Bob Helmer of Alida's Fruits. "For the last 15 years, they haven't been walking down the road."

Some of those immigrants have been flagged for removal, because a prison sentence of a year or more can put their immigration status at risk. It triggers a deportation proceeding.

That day off would help those with legal status not get attention from U.S. Immigration for those certain low-level crimes, allowing more to work on farms and in construction.

After being delayed many times for debate this year, the Senate agreed Wednesday to create a combined Senate and House Legislative Interim Committee that will take a deeper dive into the idea after the regular session ends next month.

Six members, three Senators and three Representatives, will meet up to five times between May and December to study the issues, and then recommend legislation that will likely get taken up next year.