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Colorado Sen. Bennet supports path to citizenship

P. Solomon Banda
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Sen. Michael Bennet, potentially wading into a heated political debate a year before he runs for his first election, said Saturday he supports a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally.

Speaking at a news conference of four Colorado congressional Democrats touting efforts during Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office and the new Congress, Bennet said a path to citizenship along with increased border enforcement should be part of comprehensive immigration reform.

“The current status quo is clearly unacceptable on so many levels,” Bennet said.

He said the path to citizenship should come with requirements, including completing education, learning English and holding a job.

“Opponents of this, so far as I can tell, have said they don’t believe there should be any of that,” he said. “But they have no theory about what to do with the 12 million people who are here in the United States illegally or in an undocumented way, and they haven’t offered one.”

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams said Bennet comes close to supporting amnesty.

“The two main principles of the Republican Party are strong border security and we are against amnesty,” Wadhams said, declining to comment on what to do with those already here. “That’s all I can say.”

During his campaign, Obama said immigration reform should include a path to citizenship. His administration plans to examine the issue this summer.

Gov. Bill Ritter in January tapped Bennet, a 44-year-old Yale-educated lawyer, businessman and former superintendent of Denver Public Schools, to replace Ken Salazar, who joined Obama’s cabinet as Interior secretary. Next year’s election would be Bennet’s first run for office. His campaign has raised $1.4 million so far.

Colorado, home to outspoken illegal immigration critic and former Rep. Tom Tancredo, has been the focal point of several battles on the issue, including a 2006 ballot proposal that would have denied most state services to illegal immigrants. The Colorado Supreme Court struck down that proposal on a technicality before it could go to voters.

Colorado lawmakers earlier this month voted down a bill that would have granted in-state tuition to some illegal immigrants.

“Not withstanding all the demagoguery on the issue, this country needs to have comprehensive immigration reform,” Bennet said. “The question is the timing, and that I can’t answer today.”

Bennet, Sen. Mark Udall, and Reps. Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter spoke at the Clinica Family Health Services, which provides health care to some 34,000 low-income and uninsured patients through four metro-Denver clinics. The health care center has received $631,000 in stimulus money to help expand its services, said Tom Littleton, vice president of operations and finance.

The congressmen said their news conference was a “check in” on their work in Congress. They touted the stimulus package, an equal-pay-for-women bill and expanded health care for 11 million children as accomplishments of Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office and the new Congress.

All four said there’s more work to be done on issues including comprehensive health care reform, public education and renewable energy.


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