Deaths fan immigration debate

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Meanwhile, the political finger-pointing intensified as Republicans accused Mr. Ritter and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, of condoning lax policies on illegal immigration, making Denver a sanctuary city known for protecting illegals.

Mr. Tancredo, a former presidential candidate who has championed clamping down on illegal immigration, named Mr. Hickenlooper, saying “blood from this incident is on his hands.”

“How many more people have to die before Governor Ritter and his open-borders allies get the picture?” Mr. Tancredo said. “There are a number of steps the governor could have taken and now should take if he wants to convince us he has indeed seen the light. I will once again provide him with a road map to a successful policy dealing with criminal aliens.”

Mr. Hickenlooper countered that Denver routinely refers more than 2,000 arrestees to federal immigration officials. “No matter how many times Congressman Tancredo says it, Denver is not a sanctuary city,” said Mr. Hickenlooper.

Federal law requires cooperation with immigration authorities, but many localities have passed their own laws or policies preventing police or other officials from reporting illegal immigrants. Some cities argue illegal immigrants who are victims of crimes are more likely to come forward and report those crimes under sanctuary policies.

Sanctuary cities are just one part of a broad immigration debate that roiled the Republican presidential primary early this year, but immigration all but disappeared as an issue after Sen. John McCain emerged from that contest.

Both he and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama agree on the general outlines of legalizing illegal immigrants and revamping the legal immigration system, though Mr. McCain says borders must be secured first, while Mr. Obama says all parts must be done at the same time.

Whether Denver is actually a sanctuary city has been debated for years. In his interview with the governor, host Mike Rosen said that, on a scale of one to 10, with San Francisco being a 10 as sanctuary cities go, Denver was “about a seven.”

Colorado House Minority Leader Mike May blamed Mr. Ritter, pointing to his record as Denver district attorney, when he was accused of cutting deals with illegal immigrants to have charges against them reduced.

“This recent tragedy now appears to be the direct result of such policies, and I find it reprehensible,” said Mr. May.

The governor blasted Republicans for what he called “political pandering,” adding that “this is not the time or place.”

Former Gov. Dick Lamm, a Democrat and an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, said too many public officials “wink” at the issue.

“It’s often said our immigration system is broken, but now our law-enforcement system seems to be broken, too,” said Mr. Lamm.

On Thursday, congressional Republicans plan to try to drive the issue back to the national stage with a forum, held on the House side, featuring families who lost relatives to crimes or traffic collisions committed by illegal immigrants.

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