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University of Denver: Senator comes to campus to launch immigration reform initiative

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado assembled scores of leaders from across the state at the University of Denver on Dec. 9 to launch a bipartisan call for comprehensive national immigration reform.

Bennet’s initiative, the Colorado Compact, has the endorsement of more than 100 leaders in Colorado’s political, business, agriculture, civic and religious communities. The compact outlines six principles signers believe should guide a national discussion on immigration reform. Among the principles is an affirmation that it is the federal government’s duty to enact and enforce immigration policy.

University of Denver Chancellor Robert Coombe is among those who have signed the compact.

Dozens of supporters packed the Daniels College of Business Marcus Commons for the announcement. Attendees included Bennet, Sen. Mark Udall, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Sen. Hank Brown, former Energy and Transportation Secretary Federico Pena, former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and former Denver Mayor Bill Vidal.

Bennet told the crowd the compact is the result of 18 months of behind-the-scenes work during a difficult time when, in the absence of federal action, states have attempted to institute their own immigration laws. He credited the work of the University of Denver’s Strategic Issues Program, led by Jim Griesemer, with providing ideas for reform in its 2009 report,Architecture for Immigration Reform: Fitting the Pieces of Public Policy.

“The work of the 2009 Strategic Issues Program panel helped lay the foundation of what we are announcing today,” Bennet said. “We know that the status quo is not working and is in obvious need of repair.”

Bennet said he has heard from a broad range of constituents, from all political sides, that immigration policies are not working. Business owners complain that highly educated international students are sent back home with their new skills; families say they are divided by inflexible immigration policies; agricultural companies say they can’t find workers to harvest crops; and law enforcement leaders say their efforts are impeded by immigration laws, Bennet said.

Among the groups who have signed on to the compact are the Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Ski Country USA, the County Sheriffs of Colorado and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, as well as numerous educational and religious institutions. Signers with connections to the University include Coombe; Chancellor Emeritus Daniel Ritchie, current CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts; former governor and current faculty member Richard Lamm; and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, an adjunct professor at the Sturm College of Law.