In advance of Tancredo announcement, candidates clash on immigration

At a candidate forum in Denver last week Republican candidate for governor Scott McInnis blasted Democratic opponent and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper for running a “sanctuary city” that defied federal law, it’s an attack Hickenlooper has addressed in the past but one that is sure to dominate in the weeks ahead now that former Republican Congressman and longtime anti-illegal immigration warrior Tom Tancredo has entered the governor’s race as the American Constitution Party candidate.

“Mayor I hope you lead and with the city of Denver disavow sanctuary status,” McInnis said when it was his turn to speak at the tightly structured forum that hosted Colorado candidates for governor and U.S. Senate.

Hickenlooper had already spoken and so he couldn’t respond to McInnis.

Next on deck to speak, however, was former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, who was standing in for Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Webb mocked McInnis.

“Denver is not a sanctuary city. That is [the case] only in the mind of Peter Boyles,” he said, drawing laughter and applause from the audience.

KHOW talk show host Peter Boyles has for years centered his political talk around illegal immigration and linked it to political correctness and terrorism issues.

Hickenlooper spokespeople told the Colorado Independent that Denver complies with all federal and state laws on immigration and refers illegal immigrants apprehended to Immigration and Customs officials and that to do more than that, to seek out the residency status of Denver residents, would go against the law, a point underlined by the recent passage of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, which directs that state’s law enforcement officials to check residency status. Although many Americans support that new law, many believe it tangles federal law enforcement with local law enforcement and strains relationships between ethnic communities and local police, limiting reporting of crimes and encouraging racial profiling.

Democrats on the panel said they couldn’t support the Arizona law. Hickenlooper said he thought the lawsuit filed by the Obama administration was misguided or at least ill-timed in that it would draw attention away from the need for national immigration reform.

Candidates on all sides of the political spectrum at the forum agreed that the federal government needed to do more to address the problem of illegal immigration. They all agreed the government should better secure the nation’s borders.

Democrats called for comprehensive immigration reform. Republicans said any reform must not include “amnesty” or a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million illegal residents.

Both sides called for guest worker programs.

Hickenlooper said partisanship had poisoned the debate on illegal immigration, a problem he said everyone agrees is begging to be addressed effectively.

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