02/27/2012 04:41 pm ET Updated Apr 28, 2012

This Election Season, Follow Issues Like Immigration, Not the Horserace

The first weeks of political news this year has been dominated by stories of the Republican presidential primaries and the race to the GOP nomination. But for all of the attention to which candidate is up and which candidates are out, there were several developments around an issue that is critical to voters in Colorado. That will have a greater impact on our choice for the presidency.
We've been hearing for years about our broken immigration system, and while Congress must ultimately act to change many of the laws that have proven to be unsuccessful, President Obama is taking immediate steps to change what he can right now. Sadly, the same can't be said for the field of Republican candidates, including their frontrunner, Mitt Romney, who has followed the likes of Tom Tancredo and the Tea Party to take anti-immigrant positions that would divide Colorado families and communities.

In January, the Obama administration announced a change to immigration application rules that will help keep families together while a spouse or child goes through the application process. Instead of having to split up for months or potentially years, families may finally have the opportunity to continue to live their lives in the United States while they wait for their applications to be completed. The president is also committed to streamlining the process that members of our armed forces must go through to earn citizenship, fighting to pass the DREAM Act to create a path to citizenship for young people who were brought here as young children through no fault of their own, and prioritizing the swift removal of undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes over those who pose little threat to our communities.
President Obama isn't the only one working on smart, targeted fixes to the immigration system. In Colorado, legislators are doing their part to unite our immigrant population with our broader communities across the state. Last month, Democratic Senators Angela Giron and Mike Johnston introduced Colorado ASSET, a state-level version of the DREAM Act that would make it possible for undocumented youth who grew up in Colorado to go to college and become more productive members of our communities.
At the same time, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has vowed to veto the DREAM Act, calling it a "handout." He derides bipartisan immigration reform proposals as "magnets," yet offers no solution to fix a system that fails the people who want to come here, contribute, and live the American Dream. And in January, Romney proudly announced the endorsement of Kris Kobach, the man behind both Arizona's and Alabama's extreme anti-immigrant laws.
The difference between Democrats and Republicans is crystal clear when it comes to immigration. For all the ups and downs of the Presidential primaries, stark choices like these are what really matter on Election Day. If Mitt Romney and Republicans thinks they can denigrate our friends, neighbors, and family with anti-immigrant rhetoric, Colorado voters will send them a strong rebuke come November.

Rick Palacio is Chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party.