Published by the Denver Post.
Pro-business groups in Colorado and nationally on Wednesday fired off their latest attempt to kick-start long-stalled immigration reform legislation.
They hope new poll results will revive the fractured debate, sometimes within party lines, over how much attention to devote to border security versus granting legal status, or even citizenship, to the millions of immigrants in the United States illegally.
The Colorado poll, conducted by a GOP firm that polled nationally and in more than two dozen states, found that 66 percent of likely voters, while split on whether to offer a path to citizenship, favored granting some sort of legal status to "undocumented immigrants." Large majorities held for Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Eighty percent think it's important for Congress to act on a reform bill this year.
And supermajorities — including nearly 69 percent of Republicans — said a distrust of President Barack Obama's administration on the issue was not a valid reason to hold off on fixing the immigration system.
"We need to put aside the fears that this is somehow a play for amnesty," said Jeff Wasden, president of the Colorado Business Roundtable, during a news conference at the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce office in Centennial.
The poll releases and news conferences across the country were part of a "day of action" backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers. It's not the first time business groups have mounted a polling effort to pressure Republicans into supporting immigration reform.
But the Denver-area news conference, along with two others in Colorado, came during a new flare-up of distrust between Obama and immigration hard-liners.
Obama this week asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with a surge of young migrants from Central America who have crossed over the Texas border.
Illustrating the larger hurdles facing reform bills, the migrant surge is a problem that some, including Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, blame squarely on Obama because they say he hasn't fully enforced the laws.
The Republican, who's the easy favorite to replace U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner this year, supports increased border security along with an expanded, streamlined guest worker program — as long as there are identity verification protections. But Buck cited plenty of reason to distrust Obama.
"You can't pass a law and have a president act as a super-legislator ... because then the law fails," he said.
More broadly, though, Buck said Wednesday's poll "reflects the frustration of Americans about the failed policies of Republicans and Democrats for the last 30 years."
Gardner, who is running to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, agreed: "I will continue to press my colleagues until we can pass meaningful legislation that will help Colorado families and businesses," he said through a spokeswoman. "It's far too important of an issue for us not to."
Meanwhile, at the South Metro Chamber news conference, Wasden and others said there was plenty at stake for businesses because of restrictive visa rules and laws that make immigrants without legal status afraid to come out of the shadows.
Colorado farmers, high-tech businesses and other companies represented by the business groups are seeking to streamline rules that make it difficult to hire immigrant workers, ranging from seasonal pickers to skilled engineers.
And Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, a Republican, voiced concerns about how a lack of legal status makes many crime victims afraid to seek justice, letting perpetrators go free.
"I don't believe that the ... illegal immigrants that are here are asking or crying for citizenship," Wasden said. "They would like to have the opportunity to function, to work, to be a part of their family, without fear of being deported or separated from their family. That's a very different status that we're talking about."
Harper Polling of Harrisburg, Pa., conducted its poll of 582 likely voters in Colorado on June 22 and June 23. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.06 percentage points.
Harper was formed after the 2012 election as a "robo-polling" firm for Republicans on issues and elections as a counterweight to Public Policy Polling, an outfit that has conducted many polls for Democrats. Those two firms teamed up on polling about immigration reform last year.
Jon Murray: 303-954-1405, email@example.com or twitter.com/JonMurray