Mayoral debate

Mayoral candidates Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston at an April 27 debate organized by Together Colorado. (Alex Edwards/Denver Gazette)

Days after an immigration bill cleared the Colorado legislature, Denver mayoral candidates Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough tackled immigration issues at a mayoral candidate forum Thursday night in Denver.

Both committed to supporting DACA recipients and working with undocumented immigrants who now call Denver home. 

House Bill 1100 was approved last week and awaits Gov. Jared Polis' signature. If signed into law, it prohibits state and local governments and other agencies from entering into or renewing contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Brough and Johnston recounted their previous experiences working with undocumented people, with both coming from different backgrounds.

Brough relied on her time as president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce to draft her response. 

"We led that work around the nation and tried our best to influence Washington. I would commit to continue that work and get our private and nonprofit sectors to make the same commitment to our kids." Brough said.

Brough also recalled the recent surge of migrants Denver experienced in December when thousands had to call Denver a temporary home. She volunteered at one of the many recreation centers that housed and serviced immigrants. One of the most common questions was, "where can I work?" she said.

Johnston pointed to his experience as an educator, recalling a time when he and staff members at a school graduated 100% of their class to accredited colleges. However, roughly half were undocumented. 

"This meant they could not go to college unless they paid out of state tuition... We did everything we could to prepare them but none could actually go," he said. "So I ran for the state senate trying to be a part of a coalition to change that." 

Regarding DACA, and the potential of its repeal, Johnston said he wants to create a public/private partnership where the city would act as a liaison between undocumented workers and businesses in need of hiring. Employers would pay the city, who would send the workers to those businesses in need.

Johnston likened it to a consulting agency, suggesting the name 5280. 

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