On Monday morning, as the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments for a critical immigration case, Colorado Democratic Sen. Morgan Carroll accused her opponent, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, of wanting to destroy Colorado’s immigrant families.
“Mike Coffman and the Republican Party want to tear hardworking, honest families apart,” said Carroll, at a press conference at the Colorado Democratic Party headquarters in Denver. Carroll is currently challenging Coffman for the 6th District U.S. House seat.
“While Mike Coffman, Donald Trump and the Republican extremists in Congress wage their anti-immigrant campaign, we must remember that these actions have real human cost,” she added.
In numerical terms, the human cost she referenced is nearly five million. Two immigration reform programs, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and the expansion of the existing program Deferred Action for Children of Americans (DACA), would together provide temporary deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants whose children or parents, respectively, are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently arguing about the fate of these programs in the case United States v. Texas.
The current DACA program has allowed more than 25,000 young immigrants to remain in Colorado.
“I can truly say that DACA has changed my life, and it has relieved that fear of deportation,” Cesiah Guaderrama, a junior at Metro State University and pre-expansion DACA recipient, said at the press conference. “Our families and our parents have worked very hard to make our dreams come true.”
President Obama issued an executive action to create DAPA and expand DACA in 2014. Both programs have been under fire ever since.
Twenty-three states, led by Texas, filed a lawsuit against the federal government two years ago calling the programs unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Obama last November.
Carroll’s support of the programs, she says, comes after speaking with many immigrant families throughout Colorado.
“Blocking DAPA and the extension of DACA will affect mothers, fathers and children in our community. It would send a hateful message to all immigrant families, and that hateful language coming from the Republicans does not represent the values this country was founded on,” she said.
Rep. Coffman was unavailable for comment. He has a record of voting against Colorado immigrants. In early 2015, he notably split from Republicans and opposed the defunding of DACA. But more recently, he voted with Republicans to send a brief to the Supreme Court opposing both DACA and DAPA. In March, state Democratic leaders even blamed him for the rise of Donald Trump.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Zach Hunter called Carroll’s remarks “outrageous.”
“Nancy Pelosi and her handpicked candidate have once again turned to sleazy campaign attacks in an attempt distract voters from Morgan Carroll’s disastrous record. These sort of outrageous allegations didn’t work in 2012 or 2014 and they won’t work this November,” he said.
Carroll garnered praise from activists, immigrants and their families at the press conference.
“DAPA is great but we need a larger fix, and that’s why I am here today to support Morgan Carroll as congresswoman. She is someone that I know will work for our family,” said activist Jenifer Piper.
Sergio de la Rosa, a 23-year-old community organizer who became a DACA recipient when the measure was first passed in 2012, is acutely aware of the impact of the SCOTUS case. Though de la Rosa and his older sister qualified for DACA, his older brother’s age disqualified him.
Without DAPA and the DACA expansion, he said, “There are still a lot of families that are left on the edge, trying to figure out if they get to come home at the end of the day.”
For people like his brother, who choose to stay with their families but lack legal documentation, “It’s just absolutely terrifying,” he said.
“This isn’t a game.”
Until the final ruling, expected in late June, the oral arguments are the only predictor of how the eight-member Court will vote on this case.
A transcript of the proceedings is available here.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story did not mention Coffman’s 2015 vote to oppose the defunding of DACA. The story has also been updated to include the quote from NRCC spokesman Zach Hunter.
Photo credit: Facebook, Congressman Mike Coffman