During the latest round of debate over the perennially hot-button issue of immigration reform, proponents of comprehensive reform have creditably given Republicans tremendous leeway to come around on the issue. This was a pragmatic decision on the part of traditionally Democratic-aligned immigration reform proponents, hoping that growing public support for their version of reform, which would include a sensible path forward for undocumented immigrants already in the county, would push enough Republicans to the table to make progress.
To this end, immigration reform advocates were elated to see Rep. Mike Coffman, the successor to anti-immigrant firebrand Tom Tancredo in Congress, paying newfound lip service to the idea of immigration reform. Coffman has continued to make what can be best described as "surgical overtures" to immigration reform proponents, in particular calling for a path to permanent residency for undocumented students who join the military.
“These are talented, hardworking DREAMers who will strengthen our military, boost our national security, and enhance our military readiness.”
Notice how Coffman even uses the term "DREAMers?" The way Coffman talks about immigration reform today, you might never realize that he voted to deport those same DREAMers. So did Rep. Cory Gardner, now Colorado's Republican U.S. Senate candidate–who just this week told immigration reform protesters occupying his Greeley office:
I will continue my efforts to convince Speaker Boehner and the rest of the House to bring immigration reform legislation to the floor.
Like we said yesterday, this is the same Cory Gardner who helped kill bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that had already passed the U.S. Senate. Cory Gardner voted to deport DREAMer students right along with Coffman, and Gardner even objected to the Justice Department's lawsuit against Arizona challenging the constitutionality of that state's SB-1070 anti-immigrant law.
This is the emerging fact: the gap between Coffman and Gardner's words on immigration reform and their deeds is becoming so wide, that for anyone who understands the issue, it's simply not believable. You just can't reconcile their statements with their actions on immigration reform, which have done absolutely nothing to advance the issue. In fact, and there's no nice way to say this, their votes make bald-faced liars of both of them.
For reform proponents who gave Coffman, and to a lesser extent Gardner lots of time and space to do the right thing, this realization has of course been painful. It proves that reform advocates cared more about advancing the issue than partisan politics, and that is to their credit. But the net result has been that both of these politicians avoided attacks that could have done real political harm to them for many months. The unfortunate lesson in all of this is that sometimes pandering works: the time Coffman and Gardner bought themselves going into their hotly competitive elections this year was invaluable.
But as the AP's Nicholas Riccardi reports, reform proponents are done being pandered to, and mad as hell.
Democrats and immigrant rights groups today are targeting Colorado as the one place where they can make Republicans suffer for their inaction on immigration. “The national focus of the immigration reform community is on Colorado,” said Patty Kupfer, managing director of the immigrant rights group America’s Voice. “This is where we’re throwing down.”
They’ll focus their efforts on the Senate battle between Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner and Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and the congressional race, one of the most competitive in the nation, pitting Republican incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman against former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, a Democrat.
On Friday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a prominent Democratic congressman from Illinois who is active on immigration issues, appeared at a press conference in Denver with Colorado’s two Democratic senators to mark the one-year anniversary of the failed Senate bill. He castigated House Republicans for their inaction and did not spare Udall’s challenger, Gardner…
Coffman has made a dramatic reversal on immigration since his district was redrawn in 2010. Before, he backed a proposal requiring all ballots be printed only in English and praised former congressman and immigration firebrand Tom Tancredo. Now, his new district is 20 percent Hispanic and he is studying Spanish and backing citizenship for some people brought here illegally as children. But critics note he, like Gardner, voted to repeal Obama’s executive action and he doesn’t back the Senate bill. [Pols emphasis]
Over the last few months, politically-savvy–some might call us cynical–observers have pointed out the clear evidence that the "embrace" of immigration reform by formerly hard-right Rep. Coffman was a political contrivance. In Gardner's case, there's even less real evidence that he has ever supported anything like immigration reform as proponents understand it. In both cases, recent public statements they have made in vague support of reform are completely invalidated by their voting records in Washington. The gap between pandering and reality in this case is so wide that it seems like some reporters just don't get it, and simply assume there is some greater complexity that allows these politicians to so blatantly contradict their own words.
But there's not, folks. As immigration reform advocates have belatedly realized, and hopefully the lazy local media figures out soon, this is the massive con job it appears to be. Platitudes in favor of two vague words, "immigration reform," are not enough–and actions speak louder.