An important sidebar to the raging controversy over allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, and in turn Colorado, is the potential significant impact the story may have on Colorado’s hottest 2016 congressional race–the showdown between incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman and by far his greatest challenge, yet former Senate President Morgan Carroll in the swing Sixth Congressional District.
As the Aurora Sentinel reports, Carroll and Coffman are polar opposites on this defining issue:
Shortly after multiple Republican governors across the country announced they would be doing what they could to prevent Syrian refugees from being resettled in their states, Rep. Coffman joined them in announcing that he opposed resettling Syrian refugees in Colorado.
“I’m opposed because we simply have no way of conducting background checks for screening Syrian refugees,” he told the Denver Post earlier this week…
Carroll, his likely challenger in the 2016 general election, put out a statement Wednesday afternoon in support of efforts by President Barack Obama and Gov. John Hickenlooper to take part in joining European allies and other nations in finding shelter for refugees within our borders.
From Carroll’s statement yesterday:
“ISIS is inflicting terror on innocent people from Syria to Paris and now they have their targets set on the U.S. We must take down these terrorists and protect innocent people who desperately want freedom, whether they are refugees or good people still living in Syria.
The U.S. has the most rigorous screening of refugees in the world, far more stringent than Europe. We need to join our allies in the world and do our part to stand with those who have been ravaged by ISIS terrorists. As such, I support the Commander in Chief and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in rigorously screening refugees and helping those who pass the screening to find a better life, rooted in freedom and democracy, in America.”
The thing to understand here is that since redistricting in 2011, CD-6 is centered on the large and culturally diverse suburban city of Aurora. Aurora was described in a 2013 Denver Post story as the “port of entry” for refugees being resettled into Colorado from all over the world. Today, the city boasts sizable populations of Ethiopian, Eritrean, Nepalese, and many other refugee and immigrant communities. More than one in five Aurora residents was born abroad, the highest percentage in Colorado.
With that in mind, Coffman’s party-line opposition to Syrian refugees comes across as grossly at odds with the interests and values of the district he represents in Congress. Aurora has no reason to fear refugees, because they are already there in large numbers. Regardless of where they may hail from, no one knows better than fellow refugees and immigrants the prejudice faced by Syrians fleeing the civil war raging in their homeland.
And yes, folks, a lot of them are American citizens now. Natural-born Americans in CD-6 who live and work with refugees every day know this xenophobic outburst from the right following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris is misguided and wrong.
Who speaks for them today? Morgan Carroll speaks for them.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this. More than anywhere else in Colorado, it’s going factor in 2016.