U.S. Senate hopefuls differ on immigrants

All four candidates for the U.S. Senate say they want some better way to legally attract foreign nationals into the country, but they split over what happens after that.

One, Republican Jane Norton, said she wants noncitizens legally in the nation to be issued biometric cards that would allow them to be more easily tracked and sidestep the thorny issue of whether the federal government should issue national identification cards.

That’s fine, Norton’s opponent, Ken Buck, said. He, too, is interested in dealing with ways of tracking people who come to the United States.

“It’s what we need to do,” Buck said. “ID cards are too easily forged.”

The Democrats jockeying for the same Senate post said employers need reliable systems and identification when they hire.

Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff called for a “tamper-proof ID card” that would offer assurances to employers, but “I don’t believe they ought to be demanded simply for the offense of just walking down the street.”

Sen. Michael Bennet called for a “working worker-visa program” aimed at making it easier for farmers to deal with worker shortages through H-2A guest-worker visas. Extension of the annual cap on the H-2B visa program with an exemption for employees who have used the program in the past three years is necessary for the tourism industry, his website says.

Romanoff, according to the Bennet campaign, has been too cozy with Republicans on the issue of illegal immigration.

Some have called the Colorado legislation that Romanoff shepherded though the Legislature “Arizona lite,” Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid said.

That comment, Romanoff said, reflects a lack of appreciation for the legislative experience he dealt with in 2006, when Colorado’s law, then deemed the nation’s most strict, was passed.

Buck’s support for a biometric system makes him a “me too” candidate, Norton campaign manager Josh Penry said. “For a guy always attacking Jane, he sure is fond of her ideas.”

Weld County, where Buck is the district attorney, is on the front lines of illegal immigration, and a main issue there is identity theft.

“We are working hard to deal with this problem, but it will continue to grow until we get serious about dealing with illegal immigration,” Buck says on his website.

A biometric card would ease the stress on employers who are placed in a “ridiculous position” by current law, which punishes them for hiring illegal immigrants but puts roadblocks in their way of learning applicants’ status, Buck said.

“Employers shouldn’t have to be immigration cops,” Norton said, but they should be held accountable if they break the law.

That’s why a “biometric green card” is needed, Norton said.

Romanoff said the issue goes beyond illegal immigration, and more effort needs to be made to stop drug smuggling and human trafficking, as well as preventing terrorists from entering the country.

“I think we need to do more to identify threats at the border” with more agents, tools and training, Romanoff said.

Bennet says on his website that better enforcement is needed.

“I support increasing the numbers of border patrol agents and investigating more technologically advanced surveillance equipment that will increase our ability to stop illegal immigration at the border,” he said on the site.


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