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Corruption Chronicles

Colorado Gives Illegal Immigrants Unemployment Benefits

 

Colorado pays illegal immigrants unemployment insurance because a director at the state agency that cuts the checks eliminated a key tool designed to prevent payments from going to unqualified residents.

As a result the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) regularly makes unemployment insurance payments to illegal aliens and other citizens who don’t qualify for the taxpayer-funded benefit. The story was made public after an investigative news organization obtained internal electronic mail showing that a high-ranking official ordered the agency to stop using a software control implemented to screen applicants’ immigration status.

The CDLE’s unemployment director (Mike Cullen) actually issued an official work order in early 2009 to shut the system down. The order, which was given “top priority,” forced the agency’s information technology department to reset the software so that it stopped questioning the immigration status of applicants.

Since the change was implemented, any residency or citizenship related questions routinely asked of those filing for unemployment benefits have been ignored by the computer system. The move violates a 2006 state law that mandates that certain government benefits—including unemployment insurance—be denied to illegal immigrants.

A few days after the story hit the internet, the head of the CDLE said that state lawmakers were actually notified earlier this year that the department shut down the immigration screening tool because it was causing a backlog. With a record number of unemployment claims, the screening tool was “holding everything up,” according to the agency’s director.

It appears that many at the agency knew they were violating state law. In fact, some CDLE employees questioned the legality of suspending the program in emails obtained by the reporter who broke the story. One flat out asked “is this legal?” Another admitted that not screening for immigration status would “disable” the state law that specifically requires it. Several lawmakers have demanded an investigation.

 


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