Video: Immigration tops Colo. Senate race

By Chip Reid Correspondent
NBC News
updated 9/26/2006 7:29:25 PM ET 2006-09-26T23:29:25

For a crew of roofers near Denver, the work is back-breaking.

Rob McReynolds of D&D Roofing spent thousands advertising for local workers with little luck, leaving him no choice, he says, but to hire guest workers from Mexico.

"We have to go to the Spanish population," he says. "I hate to say it, but we're lazy people at some point. They're willing to do the hard jobs. Period."

McReynolds insists he hires only legal immigrants, but he estimates at least 25 percent of construction workers in this area are here illegally.

These sprawling suburbs outside Denver are about 600 miles from the Mexican border, but that hasn't kept immigration from becoming a key issue here in the race for a seat in Congress.

Like many Republicans, Rick O'Donnell is trying to ride a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment to Washington.

"The current system of legal immigration is broken, which is one reason so many come in illegally," he says. "The first step has to be secure the borders."

O'Donnell opposes President Bush's plan to expand the guest worker program.

Democrat Ed Perlmutter agrees that border security is the first priority, but he wants comprehensive reform.

"If somebody is learning English, paying taxes, and they haven't committed any crimes, they ought to be able to earn a path to citizenship," says Perlmutter.

That's not a popular a position with some of the breakfast crowd at the Sunrise-Sunset restaurant.

"I think that they should be deported immediately," says one diner.

"I'd lock up the borders, I'd be catching them and sending them back," says another.

Others here though are more accepting.

"They come up here and they do a lot of jobs that none of us want to do, and we need that," says one woman.

A district divided over immigration, and a race for Congress that's being closely watched as a sign of where the nation is headed on immigration reform.

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