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Latino group blasts Hickenlooper over immigration comment

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaking at the Capitol earlier this year.

DENVER — As the nation’s Hispanic community Friday celebrated President Obama’s executive order sparing 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, Colorado Latinos expressed their frustration with another politician — the state’s Democratic governor.

Earlier this week, Gov. John Hickenlooper visited with reporters at the Washington, DC bureau of the Wall Street Journal and answered questions about his successful reelection campaign, ongoing negotiations over the local control of oil and gas drilling and the president’s looming immigration overhaul.

“What’s amazing to me is, a lot of young Latinos, the vast majority don’t care about a pathway to citizenship,” Hickenlooper told the Journal. “They want to be able to get on an airplane and get down to Mexico City and visit their grandparents. And they want to get a job and be able to get paid over the table.

“Why don’t we just take the pathway to citizenship and say, ‘We’re not going to worry about it.’ Let’s have a robust guest worker system where everybody gets five years and we secure the border and we actually hold business accountable if they’re going to pay people under the table.”

Hickenlooper, who has worked with a small bipartisan group of western governors on drafting a set of immigration reform principles that might inform policy changes at the federal and state level, is known as a consensus-driven executive who believes deeply in his own ability to bridge even the widest political divides.

Whatever his intentions, this comment — and a wealthy, white politician purporting to tell a minority community what they really want — isn’t sitting well with Colorado’s Latino community, which, after not receiving a satisfactory retraction over the 48 hours since the story appeared, responded Friday by issuing a blistering statement.

“The Colorado Latino Forum is extremely disappointed in Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s recent statement regarding Latinos and citizenship,” the statement began.

“The Colorado Latino Forum has long underscored that access to a path to citizenship is a key value that must be included in any meaningful future comprehensive immigration reform package that Congress debates.

“We are disappointed that immediately following his narrow re-election in which our community voted overwhelmingly for Governor Hickenlooper, his first comments regarding Latino issues demonstrate that he is out of touch with our community’s priorities and values.

“As such, we invite Governor Hickenlooper to address the members and leadership of the Colorado Latino Forum at our statewide CLF Policy Summit, scheduled for January 10, 2015 at the Tivoli Hall in Denver, and to hear directly from the the Latino community about our views regarding the importance of citizenship as a means to fully participate in all aspects of society and daily life.”

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