Rep. Mike Coffman, the Republican representing Aurora and some of Denver’s most heavily Latino communities, is co-sponsoring a bill just re-introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives that would create protections for young and undocumented immigrants.
A little background: President Barack Obama created a program called DACA, which allowed unauthorized young immigrants to seek work permits and some degree of protection from deportation. (The program only applies to people brought here at a young age. We spoke to seven of them for a story this week.)
DACA is based only on Obama’s orders, meaning President-elect Donald Trump could take it away in a heartbeat — and there’s nothing legally preventing him from using those young immigrants’ voluntarily supplied information to seek out and deport them. Trump’s campaign has directly stated that he would end the program, though he has wavered a bit on the specifics.
“Today’s introduction of the Bridge Act is only a first step in the long process of permanently reforming and strengthening our immigration laws,” Coffman said in a written statement.
“I believe children brought here at no fault of their own merit the opportunity to live, work and study in the United States. For the balance of immigration reform, I am optimistic that we can fix our broken immigration system by enacting tougher laws, securing our borders, and implementing stricter enforcement, all while still keeping families together.”
Coffman’s statement was friendlier to DACA than Sen. Lindsey Graham’s. Graham, of South Carolina, said DACA was “unconstitutional” and Trump would be “right to repeal it,” even as he said it would be unfair to penalize DACA recipients.
About the legislation:
The BRIDGE Act would provide three more years of temporary protected status and work authorization for people who currently have DACA. People who don’t have DACA could also apply. Essentially, this would extend the DACA program as it currently exists, though we’ll have to see how it evolves.
The proposed law has been circulating since December, but it was reintroduced on Jan. 12.
The current Senate version is sponsored by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The companion House version is sponsored by Coffman and Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D, IL-04).
Coffman previously voted against President Barack Obama’s immigration reforms and programs, but the congressman’s recent campaign made efforts to connect with immigrant communities. At the same time, his district has shifted to include more Latino voters.