2006 immigration laws backed by Romanoff deflected hard-line anti-immigration initiative favored by Coffman

(Oops – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), left, with anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), left, with anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

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.

57 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. davebarnes says:

    And, it is much easier to change legislation (in the future) than amend the Constitution.

  2. Davie says:

    Let me help AC and Modster respond to this slander:

    Just because we in the GOP put a gun to Romanoff's head and handed him a ransom note, doesn't make his agreeing to pay it right!

  3. DawnPatrol says:

    You're attempting to reason with a moral and ethical tree stump, Davie. All you'll get are splinters, grubworms, and a lot of filth.

  4. Davie says:

    Elliot, your ability to ignore the obvious is famous around here.  An opinion piece written in June 2010 by an attorney specializing in the subject specifically calling out one candidate before the August primary wasn't politically motivated.  Riiiiight!

    A simple Google search had her showing up at a Bennet rally on immigration recently:

    “This broken immigration system has destroyed families across the state,” Julie Gonzales told Bennet inside 5th Sun Cafe and Lounge. “You have to ask the question: at what point is enough enforcement enough.”

    Not that it matters, since you'd never vote for Romanoff in any case, but you completely missed the point of this diary.

    2006 immigration laws backed by Romanoff deflected hard-line anti-immigration initiative favored by Coffman 

    Do you really think Coffman would be a better choice on immigration legislation?

    • ElliotFladen says:

      I don't think either is any good on the topic and I think this article was a desperate attempt at revisionism

      • Davie says:

        Then, as usual, you would be mistaken.

        • ElliotFladen says:

          Do you have statements of Romanoff criticizing anti-immigration efforts from the time of SB90's passage? 

          • Davie says:

            Elliot, I lived in HD6 for 18 years.  Ken Gordon, Andrew Romanoff and Lois Court were my reps.  I clearly recall the events of 2006 and Jason's account is accurate.  

            The only "desperate attempt at revisionism" is by the GOP. In the context of the surrounding events, Romanoff's actions were necessary.

            If I were writing a novel, the passage introducing your character would go something like:

            "With studied obtuseness from years of practice, Elliot pressed the 'Post Comment' button."

            • ElliotFladen says:

              A simple "no" would have also sufficed

              • ElliotFladen says:

                FWIW, it was Dems that tipped me off to this.  I simply made sure that message got passed along

                • Curmudgeon says:

                  I don't doubt that. They're probably passionate enough about the issue to actually speak out against their own party's candidate.    That high-pitched sound you hear? That's the point, screaming over the top of your head. 

                  • ElliotFladen says:

                    Glad you concede that principled people on immigration can and speak out on Romanoff's past misdeeds.  Now that you have made that concession, can you acknowledge that this article is blatant revisionism?

                    • Curmudgeon says:

                      No. Because it's not. See how easy that was?

                      Your devastating attempt to confuse facts with fancy lawyer talkin' has failed, unless it was only to satisfy your intellectual vanity, which, I imagine, happens without fail. 

                      Damn, is this the way you actually argue in court? Because it's laughable.  

                    • ElliotFladen says:

                      Besides your insults, I am not catching what argument you are trying to advance with that comment

                    • Davie says:

                      Once again, Elliot, not all Dems agreed with Speaker Romanoff's support of a compromise to head off a much worse result in 2006.  Some still hold it against him.  Big surprise.

                      Dems are not the Borg, so yep, we don't always agree.  That doesn't change the fact of why Romanoff felt compelled to do this.

                      "With studied obtuseness from years of practice, Elliot pressed the 'Post Comment' button." 


              • Davie says:

                @Elliot — Here's a contemporary account from the Denver Post that completely supports Jason's account.  Read it and weep:

                Immigration session on tap

                Rival groups' accord spurs Owens' call. The Pena and Lamm groups agree to seek a statutory change. The governor may still push to put an amendment on the ballot.

                By Chris Frates and Mark P. Couch 
                Denver Post Staff Writers

                POSTED:   06/28/2006 01:00:00 AM MDTADD A COMMENT| UPDATED:   8 YEARS AGO




                Gov. Bill Owens said Tuesday night that he would call a special legislative session in the next 10 days after backers and opponents of a ballot measure to limit services to illegal immigrants reached a compromise that could tamp down contentious election-year debate on the issue.

                He made the announcement several hours after Defend Colorado Now and Keep Colorado Safe – groups led by former Gov. Dick Lamm and former Denver Mayor Federico Peña, respectively – issued a joint news release Tuesday afternoon saying they had made peace on the issue.

                The groups said they had agreed to seek new laws cracking down on illegal immigrants rather than a constitutional amendment.

                Dan Hopkins, Owens' spokesman, said the governor will include the compromise proposal on the session's agenda.

                However, Hopkins said, Owens has not ruled out also asking lawmakers to discuss putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

                The compromise, modeled after a Georgia law, blends aspects of the proposed constitutional amendment that was wiped off the November ballot earlier this month by the Colorado Supreme Court and a Democratic- backed proposal to get tougher on employers who don't verify the legal status of their workers.

                Their proposal would list the state services that would be denied illegal immigrants.

                It would also require employers to verify workers' legal status.

                Lamm said Owens had encouraged him to negotiate with Peña last week. When the compromise was announced, however, Lamm said, Owens was angry. A few hours later, Owens said he would call a special session.

                Democratic House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who has been pushing for a change to state law that would not go to voters, said he is glad the Republican governor is open to the compromise.

                "Both of those groups have said a statutory solution makes more sense than a constitutional measure, and if Dick Lamm and Federico Peña can agree on this issue, the governor and the legislature can too," Romanoff said.

                Romanoff's counterpart, House Republican Leader Mike May, however, said he is "hopeful" that Owens will also let lawmakers consider a ballot measure.

                The governor, who has authority to dictate the terms of the special session, is expected to detail his plans this afternoon.

                "House Republicans want the citizens to have this debate, and we want to have a vote," said May, adding that he is drafting a proposal that could be put on the ballot.

                Owens also said Tuesday that he supports giving the people a chance to vote on the issue in November.

                With control of the governor's mansion and statehouse at stake in November, Republicans and Democrats have been jockeying for the political upper hand since the Supreme Court ruling.


                Next time I need to be ignorant about an issue, I'll be sure to ask you what you don't know about the topic.

                • ElliotFladen says:

                  So basically your argument is that Romanoff supported an antiimmigrant bill because he was worried that the Colorado Constitution would have an anti-immigrant provision inserted?

                  Is that seriously all you have to justify this vote on Sb90?  Seriously?


                  • Davie says:

                    Here you go Elliot — my "argument" in a nutshell:

                    2006 immigration laws backed by Romanoff deflected hard-line anti-immigration initiative favored by Coffman 

                    Seriously Elliot, I do your homework for you, but you insist on staying ignorant.  'tis a shame, but so be it.

                    • ElliotFladen says:

                      Deflecting an anti immigrant law change by passing an anti immigrant bill sounds like burning the village to save it

                    • Davie says:

                      Elliot, it sounds like you have residual guilt in need of assuaging over supporting Coffman, with his clearly anti-immigrant positions, thus fueling your willingness to ignore facts and to draw false equivalences between what Republicans were trying to pass vs. the compromise Lamm and Pena came up with that Romanoff helped usher through the legislature.

                    • ElliotFladen says:

                      I am not supporting Coffman.  If I were in his district I would vote libertarian for this race, with my disgust over his immigration stances being a large reason why.

                      However, just because Coffman is not good on immigration does not give Romanoff a free pass

                • ct says:

                  LOOK!…over there>>>>>

                  • MichaelBowman says:

                    In June, 2006 we had a Dem-controlled Senate and House that faced a certain veto by our Republican Governor of any legislation that didnt' match the hysteria of the Republicans at the time (a threat they were making); the Dem alternative was to compromise legislatively to avoid the possibility of a draconian, anti-immigrant constitutional amendment that would be almost impossible to amend or repeal – and Elliot thinks is "burning the village to save it"?

                    • Curmudgeon says:

                      Don't be shocked, MB…Elliot thinks that Coffman and Defend Colorado Now would be better for our immigrant population than Romanoff, because he compromised; he also thinks that anyone without a traumatic head injury would believe that he's an Independent.  

                    • MichaelBowman says:

                      And Owen's was termed out, Beauprez was in the initial stages of his 'flame-out' and it looked certain the D's would control the Governor's seat soon.  Owen's had nothing to lose – and it was the Republicans last hurrah to put those immigrants in their place.  Sure – they wanted a constitutional amendment – that's why Owens was so pissed when they announced the compromise. 

                      So in effect, Andrew didn't "burn down the village to save it"…he simply "saved it". 

                    • ElliotFladen says:

                      Let me put it this way.  Let's suppose the GOP are close to having the votes to repeal Obamacare immediately – would you have Dems vote to delay the repeal for two months as a "compromise"?

                    • BlueCat says:

                      What Davie said.

                    • ElliotFladen says:

                      Changing the Constitution in Colorado is relatively not all that hard and as such that is a poor excuse for being one of the architects of SB90.

                      If you said that Romanoff didn't want a ballot initiative to be gong on at same time as amendment 41, and thus suck oxygen from it, I would find that more believable

                  • MichaelBowman says:

                    You're seem to be struggling with the difference between politics and policy.  With the current make-up of Congress (even if the R's could take over the Senate), your theoretical scenario is nothing but a wet dream – it's the exact opposite scenario of what we were dealing with politically in Colorado in June of 2006.

  5. mamajama55 says:

    Romanoff supported a bad law as a compromise in 2006. Now he supports comprehensive immigration reform. Coffman supported bad laws then, and still won't support comprehensive immigration reform. I don't like what Romanoff did then, but I like what he's doing now.

    As BC said, we don't have to pretend to be politically pure – we can admit that we made mistakes and compromised with the devil. If the immigrant community hasn't forgiven Romanoff, then they won't vote for him. That's a consequence both he and Coffman face.

    Side note: Butch Montoya is posturing on the anti-Romanoff bandwagon. But, former Manager of Safety Fidel "Butch" Montoya is one of the most ethically compromised "human rights activists" ever, saddling Denver taxpayers with endless jobs for his brother in law / scam artist, Paul Roybal. Montoya has no credibility on this or any other issue.


  6. Duke Cox says:



    we can admit that we made mistakes

    Wait a minute…that isn't what Moderatool said…


     Democrats can do no wrong no matter what.

    Are suggesting that Moderanus is wrong?

  7. mamajama55 says:

    SB90 was expensive, unnecessary, and a terrible hardship for immigrant families. It should be repealed. Romanoff, along with other Democrats, including President Obama, has bent over backwards trying to show the world how hard-line they can be. In this, they betrayed their own humanist and populist values.

    I protested SB90 in 2006, but haven't really done anything to help get it repealed now. To show his sincerity,  Romanoff  should be adding his voice to the repeal efforts.

    That said, of course the political context that Jason lays out is accurate. And of course, this attack on Romanoff's past legislative record is political. Are you kidding me?




  8. ElliotFladen says:

    The context provided is a poor excuse for Romanoff's past actions and he has made such actions relevant based on the campaign he is running

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