The newest member of the city of Boulder’s Human Relations Commission has been living in the country illegally for the past 20 years.
The city council appointed Jose Beteta, who was born in Costa Rica, to the vacant position after voters in Boulder eliminated the requirement that board members be registered to vote. The very board to which Beteta was appointed suggested that the measure be put on the November ballot.
“Jose was one of those people who took advantage of the way you can get onto boards and commissions,” City Councilman Tim Plass said during a council meeting earlier this week. “I think it’s exciting to actually see we changed the rules, and someone applied and took advantage. We now have someone like Jose who is going to be on our board.”
The Human Relations Commission promotes diversity in Boulder and enforces the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, according to the Denver Post.
Proponents of the ordinance to change the qualifications for people serving on boards and commissions said it would promote diversity; opponents said illegal immigrants shouldn’t be allowed to serve in city leadership positions. The ballot measure passed by 62 percent.
Beteta is the first to utilize the change in the rules.
He told the Post his illegal status is the result of mistakes made by an immigration lawyer years ago, but that he is happy for the opportunity to contribute to the city where he’s lived for the past three years. He also said he hopes to inspire others to become more involved in their communities.
“I’m basically opening the door for others to follow,” Beteta is quoted as saying in the Post. “It’s one more opportunity for people to be able to contribute to their community.”
Beteta, who is the president of the Boulder County Latino Chamber of Commerce, beat out four other applicants for the position. Plass said Beteta’s experience on the chamber “is a great benefit to us.”
“I just think that’s a very exciting thing,” Plass said.
Voters in an online Denver Post poll overwhelmingly said Boulder city council was wrong to appoint Beteta to the board because of his immigration status, 90-10 percent.
Beteta will serve on the Human Relations Commission for five years. It is a volunteer position.
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