A press release this morning from a coalition of Colorado immigration reform advocacy groups–America's Voice, Mi Familia Vota, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, the Colorado Latino Forum, and SEIU Local 105–calls out Colorado GOP Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman for "play[ing] politics with young people's lives instead of pushing for meaningful comprehensive immigration reform." This would indicate that their attempt to appease immigration reform supporters by voting against legislation from House Republicans that would deport "DREAMer" immigrant students was not successful:
Have they miraculously seen the light? Well, let's look at their recent records:
· Both have voted no fewer than four times to end DACA in the last year, with the latest vote being only three months ago.
· Both voted "yes" on the rule, which allowed the anti-DACA vote to come to the floor so that all their fellow GOPers could vote to eliminate the program, even as they voted "no."
· At the same time they voted to spare DACA, Coffman and Gardner voted down two attempts by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) and Democrats to advance HR 15, a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that would help millions of families come out of the shadows.
· Coffman, just last week, endorsed detaining refugee children back in the countries they're trying desperately to escape.
What Latino voters are looking for now, and what they've always been looking for, are leaders who will take action on immigration reform. The idea that after 4 votes to deport DREAMers in the last year, that Coffman and Gardner have suddenly been converted three months before the election is insulting to a community that has been paying close attention to this debate for years. There's a reason why all the Republicans in the Colorado delegation received a 0 – 9% rating in last week's national immigration score card.
"Latino voters in Colorado have been a deciding factor in statewide races in 2010 and 2012 and, trust me, we can tell the difference between politicians who truly support immigrants and those who say the right thing when election time comes around," said State Representative Crisanta Duran. "Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman have had more than a year to push for real immigration reform, but they've done the opposite, blocking the best chance in decades to help millions of families. Now, they take one vote that finally acknowledges our young people shouldn't be deported and they want a gold star? It's going to take a lot more than that."
"…Latino voters know exactly who is responsible for blocking immigration reform, " said Carla Castedo, Colorado State Director for Mi Familia Vota. "Mike Coffman's one political show vote on DACA won't change his long anti-immigrant voting record." [Pols emphasis]
The national narrative about last Friday's votes in the GOP-controlled House on immigration has already taken shape: although pleasing to the "Tea Party" Republican base, this was a disastrous moment for the Republican Party's much-ballyhooed campaign to attract more Latino voters. These last-minute votes for "message" legislation supported by the GOP's harshest immigration opponents like Rep. Steve King of Iowa to address the child immigration crisis at the southern border, followed by the vote to end President Barack Obama's program deferring enforcment action against undocumented immigrant children here from before 2007, have set back the party's relations with the fastest-growing bloc of voters in the United States by years.
The votes by Gardner and Coffman against the amendment to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, after having repeatedly voted to do just that, appears to have resulted in a situation were no one is pleased. The fact is, all of these votes were symbolic–nothing the House passed Friday on immigration will ever get through the Senate, and even if it did, Obama would veto it. With that in mind, the repeated votes by Gardner and Coffman to deport DREAMer students before this vote are much more telling.
The only thing we can add to this is to note that these same immigration reform advocates honestly gave Gardner and Coffman a chance to do right by them–even to the point of upsetting coalition partners more directly invested in defeating these two vulnerable Republican lawmakers. In hindsight, they were absolutely right to engage with Gardner and Coffman, and even give them political breathing room to do the right thing. That's what you do when the issue truly matters more to you than the politics.
But today, as you can see, immigration reformers are out of patience with Republicans. And this desperate attempt at appeasement by two Colorado Republicans, who may serve as national bellwethers of the consequences awaiting the GOP for turning its back on immigration reform, will not be enough.