Denver’s population of undocumented workers have been living in fear since the murder of Detective Donald Young, allegedly committed by a man who was illegally in the country.

With the slaying and subsequent manhunt, concentrated on the massive immigrant population in Los Angeles, the immigration debate has returned to the forefront of public discussion. U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Littleton, has taken to the airwaves, arguing that Denver police need to crack down on illegal immigrants. He believes officers should work with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement when conducting routine traffic stops. .

Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy take the other side. This week, they introduced legislation to create a guest worker program and grant visas to those who want to come here and work.

The proposal would allow illegal immigrants to apply for temporary work permits that could last for six years. They would have to clear criminal background checks, pass an English language test and pay a $2,000 fee to qualify. At the end of the six years, they and their families could apply for permanent resident status, and five years later for citizenship.

The bill would also allow foreign citizens to apply for low-paid jobs that Americans do not want to do from outside the country. If the worker lost his job, he would have 60 days to find a new one or return home.

Tom Tancredo’s reaction to the bill was predictable:

“There is a little more lipstick on this pig than there was before, but it’s most certainly the same old pig,” he said.

The vast number of undocumented workers in our community do not commit crimes. They are here to work, make better lives for their families and to send money home. Phil Harpole, the employment director at the nonprofit Centro Humanitario, points out the obvious, which Tom Tancredo refuses to acknowledge: We are a nation of immigrants.