- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

DENVER — Two prominent billboards criticizing sanctuary policies for illegal aliens were uncovered here yesterday in the latest salvo in Colorado’s simmering immigration debate.

The first billboard shows three military helmets atop rifles and has the message, “Mr. President, Mr. Governor, Mr. Mayor; they did not die for ILLEGAL SANCTUARY.”

The second purports to welcome illegal aliens to Denver, which has policies forbidding authorities from asking about immigration status.

“Welcome to SANCTUARY CITY … Relax, you made it! Brought to you by Executive Order 116,” the black-and-white billboard says.

The 48-by-14-foot billboards are the brainchild of Denver radio talk-show host Peter Boyles, who frequently criticizes national immigration policies on his popular KHOW-AM morning show.

He broadcast yesterday’s show at a rally featuring Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, and Jim Gilchrist, founder of the national Minuteman Project. As work crews uncovered the first billboard, the crowd of about 150 people cheered, while a lone protester held a sign that said, “No Billboards for Bigots.”

The anti-sanctuary messages come as the immigration issue rises to the forefront of this year’s state election. Activists are gathering signatures for a ballot measure that would deny state services to illegal aliens, and the Republican gubernatorial candidates are sparring over who is tougher on protecting the border.

The military-themed sign is a replica of a New Mexico billboard erected by Bob Park, a former Border Patrol agent who became frustrated with government policies that he said provided better medical care to illegal aliens than to military veterans.

Mr. Boyles’ organization, Billboard Colorado, plans to erect at least one more billboard with a similar anti-illegal-entry theme. The signs, which cost $18,500 per month, are funded mainly by contributions from radio listeners and other Coloradans, Billboard Colorado spokesman Mike McGarry said.

“We’ve been deluged with contributions coming from all over the state,” Mr. McGarry said. “We’re getting $2 and $5 contributions from self-described little old ladies in their 80s where the return address is from a nursing home. This was truly a grass-roots effort.”

Polly Baca, president of the Latin American Research and Service Agency in Denver, said she was “amused” by the billboard campaign, adding that most people would find the messages sarcastic and obscure.

“I find it rather interesting that they would put up billboards that most people can’t understand,” said Ms. Baca, who opposes the proposed ballot initiative. “When they say ‘sanctuary,’ does that mean a wildlife sanctuary? There are probably a handful of people who understand these messages, and they’ve probably already made up their minds on the issue.”