John Hickenlooper just not that into talking about immigration law

Yesterday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis made a big splash by saying he'd like to bring Arizona's controversial new immigration law to Colorado.

McInnis followed up comments on KHOW morning host Peter Boyles's talk show with press availabilities aplenty, including one that led to a page-one, above-the-fold story on today's Denver Post.

In that piece, likely Democratic guv candidate John Hickenlooper is quoted as saying he would veto such a bill, but that's about it. And attempts to draw out his spokesman on the topic haven't resulted in much more information.

About 4:30 p.m., Hickenlooper's camp issued the following statement:

"Arizona's law is troubling, but I am not surprised states are trying to address immigration policy because Congress hasn't. People throughout the country are justified in feeling angry over the failure of the federal government to deal with this issue. We need a nonpartisan approach to solve this problem for the entire country and enforceable reform that doesn't abridge the basic freedom of our citizens."

These three sentences don't say very much, so this morning, I reached out to Hickenlooper spokesman George Merritt and asked to chat with him about the subject. He e-mailed back to say he was "running around" and asked what was on my mind. I responded by sending him the following questions:

John Hickenlooper's statement on the Arizona immigration law has been criticized in some quarters as being vague and wishy-washy. Your response?

A lot of politicians have made very strong statements against the Arizona bill, including Rep. Jared Polis. Does Mayor Hickenlooper want to avoid such statements for fear of making this issue even more divisive than it already is?

On the other hand, some observers might argue that making a strong statement to counter Scott McInnis's statements of support would be politically advantageous for Mayor Hickenlooper. Your response?

Immigration critics like Peter Boyles have argued that Denver is a "sanctuary city" for immigrants. Is there any danger of reinforcing this claim by not talking about this issue in more detail?

Can you share any specific parts of the bill that Mayor Hickenlooper finds objectionable?

How about parts of the bill that he might see as workable?

To that, Merritt jotted the following note: "Mike, we're on the on the front page of The Post saying we would veto the law. Period."

I then asked if that was his only response to the passel of questions I'd sent. He replied, "That and our statement. Tx."

It's doubtful Hickenlooper and his team will be able to avoid elaborating about this subject over the long term. November is a long way off, but it's hard to imagine a scenario in which immigration won't be a major campaign issue -- one that can either hurt Hickenlooper or help him.

And right now, it doesn't appear to be doing him much good...

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts