AURORA — Andrew Romanoff, Democratic challenger for the south-Denver Sixth Congressional District seat, has called on incumbent Mike Coffman to publicly debate immigration. In a district at least 20 percent Hispanic, yesterday’s move underlines what will likely be the race’s pivotal issue.
Coffman’s campaign did not respond to messages before post time, but the candidate, whose has remained elusive to members of the media during primary season, is unlikely to submit to the debate even as he seems to be working to bolster his immigration record.
Indeed, both candidates have received their share of flack on immigration.
As Speaker of the state House in 2006, Romanoff backed a series of measures passed during a special legislative session called by Republican Governor Bill Owens. The law that passed required adults to provide proof of citizenship before receiving any state services, with some exceptions for public health and safety.
In 2010, when Romanoff was running for U.S. Senate, he drew fire for the 2006 special session with immigration rights activists, who said he threw them under the bus.
Blogger Jason Salzman later pointed out that the anti-immigrant legislation Romanoff was so heavily involved in actually came about to deflect a harsher ballot initiative backed by Mike Coffman, who was then state treasurer.
“I support repealing it now because it’s redundant, and because we’ve heard from a lot of local law enforcement agencies who say it’s a burden,” Romanoff told Fox reporter Eli Stokols when one of the measures requiring local police to report undocumented immigrants to deportation was repealed last spring.
As a Congressman, Coffman has drawn both criticism and praise for his evolving stance on immigration. In 2010, he called the DREAM Act, which provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived as minors, a “nightmare” for the American people. He has continued to vote for measures that would defund or end programs that keep DREAMers from being deported.
On the other hand, Coffman is also the the sponsor of the Enlist Act, which would allow DREAMers who serve in the military to get a green card — a bill he’s been fighting for despite opposition within his own party.
The Sixth Congressional District was redrawn in 2010, doubling the Hispanic population. Romanoff’s campaign also noted that immigrants make up 17 percent of the District’s workforce. You can read the full debate invitation letter below:
[Image of 2010 Denver immigration reform rally by Heather Falenski]
correction note: This story has been updated to correct details of the 2006 special session laws.