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Mayor, lawmakers react to immigration injunction

February 23, 2015
In The News

On the morning after a federal judge in Texas stalled President Barack Obama’s executive orders to defer deportation of some undocumented immigrants, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and representatives of groups that support the policy change gathered in Denver to urge immigrants to stay calm and carry on.

“I want to encourage all of the immigrants in this city and this state to continue to pursue and to prepare their papers, because I believe that very soon and inevitably the decision in Texas will be overturned and we will be able to move forward with the bold action the President signed into executive order,” Hancock said at a press conference on Tuesday at the downtown Denver Public Library.

It was supposed to be a celebration — applications were due to start the next day for an expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – but U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled on a lawsuit brought by Texas and 25 other states that contend Obama’s orders would burden the states and that the administration hadn’t followed procedures required to change the rules.

Hancock is among the mayors of more than 30 cities — including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, St. Louis and Salt Lake City — who signed on to a brief supporting Obama’s executive order last month, a stance he reiterated at Tuesday’s press conference.

Saying he expects the Texas judge’s ruling to be reversed — the Obama administration filed an immediate appeal — Hancock said he also wanted Congress to move on comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

“Millions of people who simply want to play by the rules, contribute to their community, are living in the shadows,” he said. “More must be done to create long-lasting solutions that benefit our economy and, certainly, our national security. It’s time to pass a clean immigration bill and time to create a comprehensive solution.”

Also appearing at the event that organizers dubbed a “National Day of Action”, were Mi Familia Vota, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, El Centro Humanitario, Rights for All People, the Colorado Latino Forum, Together Colorado, 9 to 5, and leaders from the Colorado AFL-CIO and the local SEIU unions.

“This is the best chance for millions of hard-working immigrants to finally have the opportunity to live, work and stay in America with their families,” said Daniella Villarreal, an organizer for Rights for All People, an immigrant rights organization based in Aurora. She said she was able to take advantage of the original DACA program set up three years ago but hoped to see the expansion begin.

“I am still fighting now for my parents and for millions of undocumented individuals who are simply looking for a better life,” she said.

Congressional Republicans, however, cheered the ruling, though they also called for an end to the stalemate over immigration reform.

“Twenty two times, the President said he lacked the constitutional authority to issue the order that he did. Apparently, a Federal judge now has the same concerns,” said U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in a statement. “Maintaining the balance of power amongst the branches of government is critical to our democratic republic, and the court will now decide whether the President’s own initial opinion was correct. I still believe that Congress and the President should work together on real immigration reform, and I’m hopeful that this decision will provide new impetus for that effort.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman pointed to the ruling as an occasion to spur “real reform.”

In a statement, he said, “This ruling substantiates what I’ve been saying — the President is not a King and he cannot make up his own law to follow. This ruling also underscores the critical need for serious and substantive immigration reform done by the President and Congress working together. Real reform would mean a path to citizenship for DREAMers, a compassionate solution that keeps families together, and more resources directed towards securing our border. I urge my fellow Members of Congress to pass immigration reform that secures our borders, grows our economy and keeps families together.”

Coffman’s Democratic colleague, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, also took up the call for Congress to deal with the problem.

“This judicial mess is further proof of how broken our immigration system is and how badly we need to fix it,” Polis said in a statement. “That’s up to Congress, not the courts, and I’m hopeful that after years of inexcusable inaction, Republicans in the House of Representatives will finally consider a comprehensive immigration reform package that better secures our borders, streamlines our guest worker system, and keeps families together.”

Coffman’s wife, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, however, came under fire from fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, who took to Facebook to praise the ruling but lament that Colorado hadn’t joined the lawsuit that led to it.

“I appreciate those states with the courage to stand up against an overreaching executive,” Buck wrote. “It’s unfortunate that Colorado was not part of that effort. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman did not join the case or take a position on this important issue.”

Coffman told The Colorado Statesman that she supports the effort but is battling the Obama Administration on other fronts.

“While I continue to believe Congress must ultimately solve the problems with our immigration system, I support Texas’s efforts to preserve and enforce the constitutional limitations on the Executive Branch’s powers,” she said. “I have no doubt Texas will continue to advocate for those limits effectively. Meanwhile, we are focused on Colorado’s efforts to fight the Administration’s overreach in other areas, including its attempt to steal water rights from our ski areas, and its unlawful listing of the Gunnison sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, which we recently sued to prevent.”

Tens of thousands of Colorado residents stand to benefit from the expanded programs, which were announced at the end of last year in the face of a firestorm of opposition from conservatives. According to the Washington, D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute, an estimated 23,000 Colorado residents could qualify for the DACA expansion and 67,000 residents could take part in the second stage of the program, known as DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. That program was set to start taking applications in May.