Drawing lines on the land | SteamboatToday.com

Drawing lines on the land

House candidates Tipton, Salazar debate immigration reform

Mike Lawrence

Terrorism and November’s elections are fueling nationwide debates about illegal immigration, a Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District said this week.

“If we’re all very honest about it, I think politics certainly drives some of the agenda right now,” said Scott Tipton, a Cortez businessman. “But a number of people since 9/11 have been pushing for more secure borders for an extended period of time. You may well have the two interests converging.”

Tipton, a newcomer to Colorado’s political arena, is challenging incumbent Demo-crat John Salazar for the U.S. House of Representatives seat representing the state’s massive third district, which includes Routt County. The men are unopposed within their parties.

On Thursday, Tipton re–leased a plan for immigration reform that focuses on creating a guest-worker program, increasing penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and tightening security along U.S. borders.

“We must build a security wall along our southern border to stop the flood of illegal immigration,” reads the plan, which also proposes training National Guard troops near border-crossing areas.

Salazar has said he also supports a guest-worker program and increased border security. In December, he voted against the Border Security Act, which proposed 700 miles of a double-layer steel wall — with floodlights and surveillance cameras — along the Mexican border.

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“Unfortunately, we were unable to address all of my concerns in the House-passed Border Security Act,” Salazar said in a written statement. “I do not believe we should make criminals out of charitable organizations and churches that provide assistance to those in need. And local communities should not have to bear the burden of federal mandates.”

The Senate eventually killed the act and is deadlocked on compromise legislation to address the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. Congress is on a two-week Easter break.

In a March visit to the Steamboat Pilot & Today newsroom, Salazar called the Border Security Act “abrasive” and said that although a plan is needed for comprehensive immigration reform, that plan should address labor issues and provide incentives for immigrants to legally declare themselves.

“We shouldn’t be carrying the message of hate,” said Salazar, whose office staff said he is spending the break tending to planting season on his ranch in the San Luis Valley. “If there wasn’t a need, immigrants wouldn’t come here.”

Tipton said although some people may call his plan harsh, it is not meant to keep immigrants out of the U.S. as long as they enter legally.

“This has nothing to do with closing the door on immigration — that’s the lifeblood of our country,” he said. “Essentially, what we are calling for here is enforcement of our laws.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

Tipton (Republican): Wants to create a guest-worker program, increase penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and tighten the United States’ southern border with a “security wall” and National Guard troops.

Salazar (Democrat): Wants to create a guest-worker program but opposes a security wall. Salazar said he would support a plan that addressed labor issues and provided incentives for immigrants to become citizens.

— Pilot & Today Staff