(Oops – Promoted by Colorado Pols)
Back in 2006, then State Treasurer Mike Coffman stood in font of 200 people on the steps of the state Capitol as they launched a ballot initiative that would have stopped Colorado from providing services to all undocumented immigrants, even children.
Coffman led the group in reciting the pledge of allegiance, and then handed the microphone over to a string of speakers from an organization called Defend Colorado Now, which was organizing the extreme anti-immigrant initiative.
After the rally, Coffman told a reporter from the Longmont Daily Times- Call that he supported Defend Colorado Now’s ballot initiative.
Coffman "said afterward that he supports Defend Colorado Now’s ballot initiative," reported the Daily Times-Call April 28, 2006.
The history of Defend Colorado Now's initiative is worth dredging up for reporters, for context, as Republicans step up their attacks on former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff for his role is passing legislation in direct response to the ballot initiative.
If you were around in 2006, you may remember a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including then Gov. Bill Owens and Romanoff, agreed on compromise legislation to stop the hard-line initiative from being placed on the ballot.
A set of 2006 laws, passed during a special session by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and signed by Republican Owens, softened the draconian approach of the Defend Colorado Now initiative, known also as Amendment 55.
The Denver Post reported in July of 2006:
Former Mayor Federico Peña likes the special-session legislation better than the proposed Amendment 55, which would have prohibited undocumented immigrants from receiving state services that are not mandated by federal law.
"It's far better than the negative consequences of 55," he said.
The compromise legislation, backed by Romanoff, was more immigrant-friendly than the Defend Colorado Now initiative, supported by Coffman. This fact makes a mockery of GOP attacks on Romanoff for pushing compromise immigration bills, which are credited for keeping Coffman's hard-line initiative off the ballot. (Amendment 55 was rejected by the CO Supreme Court on a technicality but was expected to be resurrected the following year.)
The Defend Colorado Now initiative, which was also backed by Tom Tancredo, would have denied all non-emergency state services to undocumented children, preventing them, for example, from getting vaccinations.
In contrast to some of the cruelest provisions of the ballot initiative supported by Coffman, Romanoff's bill (HB-1023), passed during the special session in 2006, protected undocumented kids by allowing people 18-years or younger to receive state services without presenting identification.
Another law (HB-1002) supported by Romanoff specifically allowed state funds to be used for children, regardless of their "immigration status," to receive preventative care as well as treatment, for communicative diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis.
The immigration-enforcement laws passed in 2006 were widely considered to be tough, and were described as such both locally and nationally. There were new identification requirements, police reporting procedures, and tax provisions.
Some pro-immigrant groups and lefties like me criticized the new laws. And so did the Tom Tancredos of the world.
But no one would say, then or now, that the laws backed by Romanoff were worse for immigrants than the initiative favored by Coffman would have been.
That's the context through which reporters should see Republican attacks on Romanoff's 2006 immigration legislation.