So Colorado Republicans want to make immigration a big issue for the 2006 election. My advice to Senate President Fitz-Gerald, Speaker Romanoff and the rest of the Colorado Democratic contingent in the legislature: Don't take the bait.
The idea that "immigration will be the issue in 2006" has been pushed by Republicans angry with the Bushies' uncharacteristic moderation on the issue for so long that reporters and others ought to recognize it for what it is: just another contrived cultural wedge issue for an election year. Sure, Greg Walcher was able to close the gap on John Salazar by running TV commercials featuring shadowy brown criminals, but that was successful (and only partially so) only because Salazar is himself a brown-skinned Latino and therefore more vulnerable to race baiting.
The lesson of 2005 should be that immigration does not move votes. The attempt late in the Referendum C and D campaign to defeat C by linking it to undocumented immigration failed. So did Jerry Kilgore's attempt to use immigration as an issue in the Virginia governor's race. The lesson is that except as a way to play the race card against a Latino candidate, this issue has no traction. Also, history teaches us that immigration becomes an issue at the bottom of a recession when people are looking for scapegoats, not when Republicans out of ideas need to manufacture a boogeyman to rally people against in an election year.
Fitz-Gerald, Romanoff and the eventual Democratic candidate for governor should take the grown up route of pointing out that immigration is a federal responsibility, and keep the focus on the issue that matters most to Colorado voters: the economy.