Western state groups urge immigration reform

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DENVER — Democrats pushing for comprehensive federal immigration reform are getting some help from Republicans still reeling from their drubbing at the hands of Hispanic voters in 2012.

In Arizona and Colorado, bipartisan coalitions of business leaders, activists and lawmakers have unveiled blueprints in the past week outlining a course of action on resolving the myriad issues surrounding illegal immigration.

The goal is to encourage Congress to tackle the problem at a time when the chances for Republican cooperation may never be higher. The party has traditionally sought to secure the border first, but that was before President Obama won the Hispanic vote by a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent.

“I think the political tenor has changed. Republicans got their [behinds] handed to them in 2012, and they see that every year, the percentage of the Hispanic electorate goes up,” Arizona political analyst Michael O’Neil said. “They get it that they have to round off the hard edges, or it’s going to get really bad for them.”

In Colorado, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet is spearheading the Colorado Compact, a six-point plan promoting federal responsibility for immigration policy; using the visa system to meet market demands; ensuring national security; keeping families together, and focusing law enforcement on serious crime.

The compact says nothing about amnesty or citizenship, although it does call for “path forward” for illegal immigrants. It also boasts high-profile Republican support in the form of former Sen. Hank Brown, state Attorney General John Suthers and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who ran against Mr. Bennet in the 2010 Senate race.

“The message to Washington in one voice is that it’s time to do your job,” said Mr. Bennet in a Wednesday conference call. “Each and every single person, organization and business that signed the compact has done so because the status quo is not working and is in obvious need of repair. While we all may not agree on every nuance of reform, we know it’s time to get to work.”

He was joined by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who helped draw up the Utah Compact. That 2010 document, a collaboration between business and Mormon church leaders, was aimed at providing a more illegal immigrant-friendly alternative to Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, which requires police to check the status of suspected undocumented aliens detained for other violations.

In Arizona, a similar coalition of lawmakers, businesses and elected officials released last week the Solution to Federal Immigration Reform, a four-part plan that calls for border security as well as work-visa reform and a means by which illegal immigrants can earn legal status.

The measure’s supporters include Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, a Republican who supported S.B. 1070, as well as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

The state proposals are deliberately broad in order to allow congressional lawmakers to fill in the details, but critics say they worry that the plans will end up paving the way for another national amnesty without any tightening of the border.

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, called the Colorado Compact “a platitudinous document, worded in a way so to make it difficult to say there’s anything wrong with it.”

“But if you try to figure out what’s meant by it in terms of public policy, you would have to conclude it’s a document to ensure the steady flow of Democrats into the country to supply cheap labor for the Chamber of Commerce,” said Mr. Tancredo, a border-security hawk.

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