As reported by Nic Turiciano of the Denver Post today, above is video we received of GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, speaking yesterday at a forum on immigration policy at St. Therese Catholic Church in Aurora. Yesterday's forum before a packed crowd also included U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
For anyone familiar with Rep. Coffman's prior views on immigration policy, being after all the representative elected to succeed anti-immigrant fireband Rep. Tom Tancredo, the video above is likely to prove quite shocking–for viewers on both sides of the debate over immigration policy. In 2008, Coffman campaigned for Congress on a pledge to "deny amnesty and a path to citizenship to those who violate our laws." Coffman was a co-sponsor of the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009, which would have changed the interpretation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which currently defines as a US citizen any person born within US territory. Coffman even sponsored legislation to restrict the distribution of bilingual ballots to perfectly legal registered voters.
And we don't need to even mention the whole "Obama is not an American" thing again–do we folks?
Obviously, there are a few different ways to look at this. Coffman's unexpectedly narrow two-point victory over his underdog opponent in 2012 unmistakably revealed his political vulnerability–and incidents like the "Obama is not an American" remark severely undermined confidence in Coffman as a potential candidate for higher office. This led directly to Coffman's announcement that he would not, as had been widely expected before 2012, challenge Sen. Mark Udall in 2014, and focus on holding his newly competitive and diverse seat.
It's kind of hard, with all of this in mind, to not be cynical about Coffman's newfound and apparently quite extensive conversion on the issue of immigration.
On the other hand, folks, when we come down too strongly on the side of cynical politics, we deny politicians the ability–or at least make it a lot harder–to genuinely have a change of heart on any issue. Would you deny Coffman the second chance on immigration that was given to, for example, Robert Byrd on race relations? Is it possible that a legitimate conversion is occuring here, rather than one of political expediency?
The text transcription of Coffman's remarks above follows. Readers, kindly sort this moral dilemma out for us.
COFFMAN: Now first of all, I think we have to resolve, the first issue we have to resolve is legal status for those that have been here and who may have violated criminal immigration laws but have not violated criminal laws ought to be able to stay in this country indefinitely and given a legal status. I don't think there's any question about that. (applause) I think that the children who have been in this country and no other, no other country ought to have a path to citizenship, I don't think there's any question about it. (applause) And I can tell you, when we have an effective guest worker program we will then have more enforcement. It will simply happen. People will be able to come and do work and go back home and not have to cross illegally. The, I, I have not resolved the question of a path to citizenship for the adults who came to this country, whether an overstayed visa or who, um, crossed the border illegally. I've not resolved that. I'm here to listen and I'm here to learn, and I'll certainly be available to have meetings with you.
And let me just say that I want a solution. I want a solution so, uh, my successor, and probably the successor after that, that, that we aren't here 30 or 40 years ago talking about a broken immigration system again. We need to resolve it once and for all, and, and have a solution that works for all Americans as well as the immigrants in this country. (Applause)
This bill will be about compromise. So, there may be things in it that I don't like, there may be a lot of things that I like, but the question is, does it move the country forward in the right direction. And if it does, I'm going to vote for it. (Applause)
MODERATOR: We thank you very much for your response, and, uh, just to make sure that I'm clear, that I don't feel that's a very clear yes or no definite…
COFFMAN: No (inaudible)…
MODERATOR: It's, uh, no response.
COFFMAN: I, well, I think I well expressed it.
MODERATOR: As a, we will take that as a no, but we are eager to work with you to move this country forward as you yourself mentioned. And we thank our legislators here for coming out and listening to us today, and we thank you all for the attention that you've given. Thank you very much.