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Colorado becomes fourth state with immigration compact

Published December 12, 2012 4:20 pm

Government • State pressure seen as way of advancing congressional action on reform.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Colorado is the latest state to release a compact with guiding principles on immigration reform — closely following Utah's lead and offering another step toward pushing Congress toward a comprehensive approach to the issue.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said during a conference call Tuesday that the compact was charting a new path on immigration reform and away from harsh rhetoric that many Republicans blame for election losses — including Mitt Romney's defeat at the hands of President Barack Obama.

Key to that win was the Latino vote, more than 70 percent of which went to Obama. Also seen as key swing states leading up to the election were Colorado and Nevada, which Obama won by 5 percentage points and almost 7 points, respectively.

"We knew that the politics playing out on immigration did not represent our state — where Coloradans value working together, despite our differences and backgrounds, to solve problems in the best interests of our people," Bennet said. "We now have the benefit of Colorado's voice to inform the work of the new Congress."

Bennet is part of a group of eight senators, dubbed the "Gang of Eight," which includes Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, attempting to hammer out comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.

The Colorado Compact was unveiled Sunday and was notable in that it included the support of Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck who challenged Bennet for his Senate seat in 2010. The tea party favorite lost by less than 1 percentage point.

Buck took part in the signing ceremony of the Colorado Compact and read one of the document's six guiding principles dedicated to a federal solution. It was similar to Utah's release of its compact when leaders from political, religious and business groups read aloud the six principles.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who also participated in the conference call, said the result of The Utah Compact — unveiled in November 2010 — was a comprehensive collection of state-based bills designed as a rebuke to Arizona's enforcement-only law, SB1070.

Shurtleff said the compact allowed the Utah Legislature to pass a guest-worker law, HB116, which is set to go into effect in July 2013 and would grant work permits to illegal immigrants in the state after they paid a fine and passed background checks. He also credited the compact for stopping a proposed repeal of in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants and the issuing of driver privilege cards.

"We do believe the states are indeed the laboratories of democracy," Shurtleff said. "As more states and regions adhere to the principles ... ultimately that will support brave members in Congress on each side by doing the right thing."

Colorado joined Indiana and Maine with compacts — each of which has a series of guiding principles and each of which begins with the desire to see a federal solution on immigration reform.

The breadth of support for The Colorado Compact also included the state's attorney general, Republican John Suthers, and former GOP Sen. Hank Brown.

Brown, who was unable to participate in the conference call, issued a statement supporting the document.

"I was glad to help lead the effort with Senator Bennet," he said. "The wide-reaching group of signers we've assembled is sending a message to Washington that it's time for action."

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero