On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced what the Trump administration had been telegraphing for weeks: The Department of Homeland Security will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program. This program had allowed immigrants who were brought to the United States as children without proper authorization to get a reprieve from deportation and work legally, provided they finished high school and had no criminal record.
The “wind-down” for the program will take several months, and Congress could act. The Bridge Act, which would extend DACA protections for up to three years while Congress works on a long-term solution for people in this category, has already been introduced, with Republican Mike Coffman a sponsor in the House. Coffman on Tuesday filed a “discharge petition” to try to bring the bill to the floor.
And late in the afternoon, after initially saying he was consulting with colleagues on next steps, Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner joined Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in expressing support for the DREAM Act. The Denver Post reported on the decision.
But at a press conference Tuesday, a White House spokeswoman said repeatedly that President Donald Trump wants “responsible immigration reform” that includes funding for a wall, not a stand-alone “tweak.” That’s a much thornier problem for Congress and places DACA recipients at the center of a political tug-of-war. Sanders hedged on whether Trump would veto a stand-alone bill but said repeatedly the president wants a comprehensive package.
Democrats used words like “cruel” and “disgraceful” to describe Trump’s decision, while Colorado’s Republicans were divided between those who want to see Congress restore some protections for DACA recipients and those who applauded the end of a program they see as an unlawful amnesty.
Here’s what Colorado’s elected officials are saying in the wake of the announcement:
Gov. John Hickenlooper
Basically: Hickenlooper appeared with DREAMers on Friday to express support for continuing the DACA program. He called it “common sense” to allow people who grew up here and were educated here to stay and work and be productive members of society.
From the statement: “Colorado has always been a place where people can determine their destiny. The DACA program provides thousands of young people the opportunity to do just that. President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program unnecessarily jeopardizes the futures of more than 17,000 Coloradans. We strongly encourage Colorado’s congressional delegation to support the passage of the Dream Act, ensuring that Dreamers can continue making contributions to the only country they’ve ever called home. We will not turn our back on these young people and neither should our country.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock
Basically: Hancock is a supporter of the DACA program, and he pledged to defend recipients last week as he signed an executive order outlining additional protections for immigrants in Denver. Those protections include the creation of a legal defense fund for people at risk of deportation.
From the statement: “There are 800,000 youth living in the United States that know no other country but this one. They didn’t choose to be here, but they are here — contributing to this country and making good on the opportunity to pursue the American dream. Ripping them from the only home and life they’ve ever known is a cruel action unbefitting of this great nation. If the President chooses to forfeit his moral leadership with this heartless attempt to score political points, then it’s up to the House of Representatives and Senate to show all Americans that we can still govern with compassion. It’s time for a bipartisan action to protect our DACA youth, and I urge all members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to support that legislation.”
Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan
Basically: Hogan supports the DACA program and was one of 1,850 U.S. politicians, including more than 130 mayors, to sign a letter to Trump asking that it continue. He asked Congress to act.
From the statement: “The President has made a decision that now requires the U.S. House and the United States Senate to do what they should have done all along — fix the DACA situation! I gladly urge Senators Bennet and Gardner, my Congressman Mike Coffman and all the others representing Congressional districts in Colorado to get down to work and make sure those who came here as children, have a clear, safe path to stay here as adults. Whether Obama or Trump, this should not be a Presidential issue to solve. This is a Congressional issue to solve, and they should get busy doing so.”
Sen. Michael Bennet
Basically: He’s very much against this. Bennet was one of the “Gang of Eight” whose efforts at bipartisan immigration reform ultimately proved unsuccessful, and he’s a supporter of the DACA program and of the DREAM Act, which would provide people in the DACA category with a path to legal status. Bennet formally signed on to the DREAM Act Tuesday with Gardner, the Denver Post reports. The authors want to add sponsors in bipartisan pairs.
From the statement: “Today’s announcement is a devastating betrayal for the hundreds of thousands of individuals who have used the security of DACA status to receive an education, pursue careers, and safely put down roots in their communities. This decision is the height of cruelty: It’s an attempt to score political points by separating families and disrupting schools and workplaces. The President has revealed his priorities and values; in response, bipartisan leaders in business, education, and local government around the country have spoken up in defense of DACA. Congress must work together to find a legislative solution to protect DREAMers.”
Sen. Cory Gardner
Basically: Gardner’s initial statement expressed support for helping immigrants brought to this country by their parents stay here and said he was working with colleagues on the next appropriate steps. Then later in the day, he came out as a Republican co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.
From the statement: “Children who came to this country without documentation, through no fault of their own, must have the opportunity to remain here lawfully. I’m proud to join with Senator Bennet and cosponsor the Dream Act to provide certainty to the thousands of law-abiding Coloradan Dreamers and demonstrate bipartisan leadership on this important issue. I have long called for an overhaul of our country’s immigration system and believe this is an important step. I will continue to work with Senator Bennet and our colleagues in the Senate to move this bill forward into law.”
Rep. Diana DeGette (Denver)
Basically: She called the decision “a crushing blow,” but said Congress can still act. There is no reason the president’s decision should mean the actual end of the program, she said.
From the statement: “The announcement that President Trump is ending DACA is a crushing blow to the 800,000 DREAMers nationwide, including more than 17,000 in Colorado. When President Obama established the program in 2012, he made a promise to DREAMers that America would help provide a pathway to citizenship that allows them to remain vital members of our communities. Although DACA may not be the means used to achieve this objective, its spirit remains stronger than ever.
“I am urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to put legislation on the House floor that gives these young men and women the chance to achieve their American dream, such as the bipartisan Dream Act. Let’s work together to do the right thing and keep our promise. DACA is far from done.”
Rep. Jared Polis (Boulder)
Basically: Polis has been an outspoken voice on immigration issues, sponsoring individual bills for high-profile undocumented immigrants and generally supporting protections for immigrants.
From the statement: “DREAMers are law-abiding aspiring Americans who were brought to this country as children — through no fault of their own — and who know no other home. For these young men and women, DACA has meant an education, a career and an opportunity to pursue the American dream. For President Trump to threaten them with deportation after they came forward in good faith is an unimaginably cruel and destructive decision.
Polis, who is running for governor, added that, if elected, he would work to make sure “all Coloradans” are safe.
Rep. Scott Tipton (Western Colorado)
Basically: When Obama was still president, Tipton voted repeatedly to end funding for DACA and to not allow DACA recipients to serve in the military. Those bills died in the then-Democratic controlled Senate. However, he said Tuesday that Congress should take action to allow DACA recipients to stay in the U.S.
From the statement: “President Obama circumvented the Constitution when he unilaterally created the DACA program without going through the legislative process. Today’s announcement by Attorney General Sessions shows this administration’s commitment to the rule of law. While I do not support the unilateral DACA program, I believe Congress must act to develop a compassionate and commonsense solution for the children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. These individuals have grown up in the United States and are now upstanding, valued members of our communities. They should not be punished for a decision that was made by their parents years ago.”
Rep. Ken Buck (Greeley and eastern plains)
Basically: When Obama was still president, Buck voted repeatedly to end funding for DACA and to not allow DACA recipients to serve in the military. Those bills died in the then-Democratic controlled Senate.
From the statement: “We’re a nation of laws, and our immigration system must reflect that principle. I opposed President Obama’s DACA action because I believed it was wrong and unconstitutional, that ultimately Congress has the responsibility to craft our nation’s immigration laws. President Trump made the right choice by giving Congress time to pass legislation that secures our border from future illegal immigration while also addressing issues like DACA.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colorado Springs)
Basically: When Obama was still president, Lamborn voted repeatedly to end funding for DACA and to not allow DACA recipients to serve in the military. Those bills died in the then-Democratic controlled Senate. Lamborn applauded the decision.
From the statement: “After eight years of the Obama administration dismantling our immigration laws, I’m encouraged by the President’s commitment to cracking down on illegal immigration, securing our borders and reversing the unconstitutional DACA program. I have always opposed any type of amnesty and will continue to do so. But I also want to find meaningful solutions to this difficult problem, solutions that uphold the rule of law, protect our country and ensure fairness in our immigration processes. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate over the next six months to achieve these objectives and fix our broken immigration system.”
Rep. Mike Coffman (Aurora)
Basically: As the representative of a diverse district with a large immigrant population, Coffman has advocated for protections for immigrants, and in recent days, he’s pushed for action on the Bridge Act. Tuesday afternoon, Coffman filed a discharge petition to try to get a floor vote on the act. The petition requires 218 signatures to reflect the will of the majority. It’s typically a parliamentarian tool of the minority party to get around obstruction by the leadership of the majority party.
From the statement: “I’ve met many of these young people in Colorado who were brought to the United States as children and who grew up here, who went to school here and who often know of no other country. The DACA program that has given them an opportunity to come out of the shadows, legally work, and pursue higher education.
“I see the discharge petition as a way to bring legislation to the floor should Republican leadership fail to allow a floor vote on a bill to protect these young people.”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (Lakewood)
Basically: In the lead-up to the announcement, Perlmutter repeatedly said Congress should act to protect DREAMers, and afterward, he called the decision “disgraceful.” He also defended Obama’s decision to enact the program as an executive order in light of Congressional inaction.
From the statement: “We are a nation of immigrants and a nation of opportunity but the administration has pulled the rug out from under these folks leaving them with the fear of being separated from their family and the only life they’ve ever known. Terminating this program goes against our values as a country and only panders to a narrow group of the President’s base supporters. It will also have a disastrous impact on our economy. …”
“President Obama signed the Executive Order authorizing the DACA program largely because Congress wasn’t acting on comprehensive immigration reform. I strongly disagree with President Trump’s decision to end this program, but it is now more important than ever that Congress acts quickly to protect these individuals.”
This story has been updated throughout.