The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reported yesterday on a…push, agitation, grandstand, kabuki dance, whatever you want to call it from Rep. Mike Coffman for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to allow “DREAMer” undocumented students to enlist in the military:
A provision that could pave the way for young immigrants to serve in the U.S. military has sharply divided two Republican members from Colorado’s delegation — and the upcoming vote Thursday afternoon is expected to come down to the wire.
On one side is U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, who supports an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act — a military policy bill — that would encourage the Pentagon to accept into service young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Specifically, the provision targets immigrants who were shielded in 2012 from deportation by the Obama administration as part of a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals…
Opposing the effort is Lamborn of Colorado Springs. He’s part of a conservative effort to strip that language from the bill and signed a letter earlier this month that demanded its removal.
Coffman’s staff took to social media yesterday to make it as publicly visible as possible that he supports letting DREAMer students die for their our country:
— Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) May 14, 2015
But as was a foregone conclusion before Coffman said a single word, the amendment failed at the hands of Coffman’s Republican colleagues. Roll Call:
A 221-202 vote on an amendment, offered by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., stripped a provision in the underlying bill encouraging the Pentagon to study options for enlisting undocumented immigrants into the military in exchange for a pathway to legal status.
All 182 Democrats voted “no,” joined by 20 Republicans.
Passage of the Brooks amendment will prompt a sigh of relief from GOP leaders…
“The House should not take action to legitimize the president’s unconstitutional overreach on immigration,” proclaimed Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects from deportation the certain undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for military enlistment in some future scenario.
Here ends yet another situation where Coffman was able to burnish his pro-immigrant credentials without risk of any outcome that might uncomfortably alter the status quo. Coffman repeatedly makes reference to “DREAMers” in his call to let them enlist in the military, sidestepping the fact that he opposes the actual DREAM Act. In fact, Coffman once called the DREAM Act “a nightmare for the American people.”
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) issued the following statement regarding the House vote tonight on the DREAM Act, an act that gives amnesty to certain illegal immigrants in the United States:
“The Dream Act will be a nightmare for the American people. [Pols emphasis] No doubt, we need immigration reform but the Dream Act is written far too broadly and it will only encourage more illegal immigration, promote chain migration, and will be a magnet for fraud.”
Since that time, Coffman has cast votes both for and against deporting students who would be covered by the DREAM Act, and are now at least temporarily protected by President Barack Obama’s executive order last year halting their deportation. But in terms of actual policy, Coffman has never stuck his neck out for DREAMer students beyond calling for them to be able to enlist in the military: a solution that just won’t work for many of these students as two second’s consideration of the question makes obvious.
This is all taking place against the backdrop of an increasingly likely run by Coffman for the U.S. Senate next year. Coffman’s work to reinvent his image from an anti-immigrant hardliner in the Tom Tancredo mold to a “moderate” representing a diverse, urban constituency has positioned him better to run in a marquee statewide race, but there are limits to what he can plausibly do–both practical and political, since he can’t go too far in the opposite direction to his former self without looking like a craven flip-flopper to everyone, or alienating Republican base voters he still needs to win (or both).
In order to pull it off, Coffman needs an alignment of many competing factors: space to advocate for his new positions without too much blowback from the anti-immigrant GOP base and fellow Republican politicos opposed to his new position, no real progress on the larger issue of immigration reform that would force him to take a stand beyond his limited proposal for DREAMers in the military–and most importantly, a deferential local media willing to conceal Coffman’s prior statements and votes, and convey the New Coffman® to statewide voters uncritically.
Above all, the thing to remember here is that this is not about making progress on the issue of immigration. It’s about Mike Coffman winning elections. For reasons both specific to Coffman and much larger than him, his contribution to the issue continues to amount to meaningless showboating.
Which, don’t get us wrong, does sometimes win elections. But there’s nothing authentic about it–and in this case, there’s nothing to show for it either.