Sep 28, 2022 - News

Colorado Republicans make immigration a 2022 campaign issue

Illustration of the American flag with a stripe as a red carpet with a portable rope barrier beside it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A record number of migrant encounters at the southern U.S. border this year is injecting the issue of immigration into the 2022 campaign and allowing Republicans to highlight the Biden administration's limited response.

What they're saying: In Colorado, GOP candidates are calling for stronger border protections and linking the issue to an increase in crime and fentanyl smuggling.

  • In the U.S. Senate race, Joe O'Dea, whose wife is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, called for a bipartisan solution that closes the border but gives children of immigrants known as "Dreamers" permanent citizenship. He says the Biden administration is "doing nothing as [immigrants] are dying" attempting to cross into the country.
  • In the 8th Congressional District, Barbara Kirkmeyer, who recently visited the U.S.-Mexico border, continues to endorse former President Trump's plan to build a wall. But she also supports business development aid to Mexico and her campaign tells Axios she backs citizenship for DACA recipients.
  • In the 7th Congressional District, Erik Aadland similarly is pushing to secure the border. He called for "effective processes" to deal with immigrants, but the campaign didn't offer specifics when pressed.

Yes, but: It's an issue that also is creating problems for the GOP.

  • Even as polls show immigration is a top issue for Latino voters β€” a key swing constituency in Colorado β€” they are favoring Democrats.
  • O'Dea recently created controversy by saying governors in Florida and Texas "were right to bring some visibility to this issue" by flying migrants to blue states.
  • Aadland's campaign website features a video with a cannon and the phrase "Come and take it" β€” a symbol for Second Amendment supporters and a battle flag Texans created during their rebellion against the Mexico government in the 19th century.

The other side: Democrats are pushing back against the GOP on immigration, noting that O'Dea, Kirkmeyer and Aadland align with Trump on a border wall.

  • Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet touted endorsements from The Weekly Issue/El Semanario, which cited his work as a member of the so-called Gang of Eight to craft immigration reform and support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
  • Yadira Caraveo, the Democratic candidate in the 8th District, is the daughter of an immigrant, and along with 7th District Democratic candidate Brittany Pettersen, called for permanent citizenship for "Dreamers" and others with temporary status. As state lawmakers, they also voted to increase pandemic aid to immigrants.

Editor's note: This piece was updated to clarify Barbara Kirkmeyer's position as one where she supports citizenship for DACA recipients.


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