This Time, Republicans Accuse a Democrat of Being Too Strict on Immigration

Ben Terris
National Journal

What has the world come to when Republicans are accusing Democrats of being too strict on immigration? Plenty has been written about how Republicans are having a tough time figuring out exactly where they stand on the issue. But to see just how strange things have gotten, take a look at what’s happening in the 6th Congressional District of Colorado. There, Republicans are attacking a Democratic candidate from the left for his role in implementing a 2006 immigration bill.

The attack comes in the form of a Web ad created by the National Republican Congressional Committee aimed at Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff. Made to look like a Facebook page, the NRCC says of the former speaker of the Colorado House: “He likes the strictest immigration laws in the nation.” The ad then goes on to encourage viewers to sign up to “dislike” the Democrat.

Just a couple of years ago this line of attack wouldn’t have made any sense at all. The current representative, Mike Coffman (perhaps most famous for accusing President Obama of not being American in his heart), has proposed his own anti-immigration legislation in the past. When he first ran in 2008, one of his planks was to “deny amnesty and a path to citizenship to those who violate our laws.” But this year, he had a change of heart and all of a sudden supports a path to citizenship.

He says it’s due to personal interactions with families, but skeptics of his motives will point to the changing demographics of his constituency. After redistricting, the Hispanic population of his district doubled.

This new landscape means a softer touch on immigration will be needed to carry the seat. The NRCC knows this, which is why they are happy to point out Romanoff’s roll in the 2006 bill. Democrats did call it “the toughest in the nation” at the time. But what the NRCC probably doesn’t want to admit is that most Republicans then didn’t think it went far enough.