DENVER – Immigration policy has received renewed attention in recent months, as politicians have scrambled to “rebrand” on the issue in hopes of winning the votes of increasingly influential Hispanic voters. And that could put some Democrats, particularly those on primary and general election ballots next year, in a difficult position.
For Democratic congressional candidate Andrew Romanoff, a former state lawmaker who authored state laws barring in-state tuition discounts and taxpayer-supported benefits for illegal immigrants during his tenure, it means softening a tough-on-illegal-immigration identity that some say is a political liability for the former State House Speaker.
It’s a position that hobbled Romanoff during his 2010 Senate primary bid against Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who ultimately won the Democratic nomination.
Bennet, who went on to defeat Republican Ken Buck in the general election, is now a member of the so-called “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.
For U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.), whose career in Washington spans three decades and terms in both houses of congress, it may mean reconciling his position on both sides of a key immigration enforcement question – one that lawmakers may soon grapple with again as they prepare to consider highly anticipated immigration reform proposals this month.
As a freshman legislator, then-Representative Udall twice voted against a proposed House amendment that sought to put military personnel on the U.S. border to prevent the entry of terrorists and assist with drug interdiction efforts – once in 1999 and then again in 2000.
When the same amendment was offered in 2001, however, Udall did an about-face on the issue, voting in favor of the border militarization measure.
With one recent poll showing strong public support for using the military on the border, and the Senate likely to take up border security related amendments during an expected debate over immigration, Udall could find himself sandwiched between a liberal base that supports easing immigration enforcement and a broader electorate concerned about drug-fueled violence in Mexico spreading into the United States.
Asked about Udall’s shift in position, and whether the Senator would support or oppose such an amendment as part of the upcoming immigration debate, Udall spokesman Mike Saccone first asked for more details on Udall’s voting record and then declined to comment.
A Rasmussen Reports Survey released Monday found that 69 percent of likely voters favor using the military to assist with enforcement efforts along the border – a view shared by 63 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of unaffiliated respondents in the poll.
Placing troops on the border isn’t the only immigration related issue Udall has been on both sides of.
“Mark Udall has had more positions than the Broncos have had quarterbacks since John Elway,” said National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director Brad Dayspring. “No matter how much he tries to change positions to camouflage it, Mark Udall is a reliable liberal vote on issues most important to Coloradans.”
Lawmakers could begin debate on immigration legislation as early as this week.