A group of immigration activists rallied in Denver on July 2 to call on Colorado's Republican U.S. representatives to support an immigration-reform bill that recently passed the Senate.
“We are calling on our Republican congressional delegation leaders to step up, to exercise leadership, to show bipartisan willingness, to follow the will of the people of Colorado,” said Julien Ross of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, during a rally that was held outside of Denver's Republican Party headquarters.
The group waved Americans flags and held signs that signaled its desire for immigration reform at the federal level. Immigration reform is high on President Obama's second-term priority list, but it's an effort that faces an unknown future in the Republican-controlled House.
The bill — which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate by a 68-32 vote on June 27 — overhauls immigration laws by allowing a pathway to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented workers. It also puts provisions in place that strengthen border security.
Many House Republicans have expressed concern over security issues in the bill, and some party members are opposed to a bill that they believe grants amnesty for those living here illegally.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said through national media outlets that he will not bring the bill up for a vote if the majority Republicans in his caucus do not support it.
The purpose of the Denver rally, which was organized by Coloradans for Citizenship Now, was to put pressure on Colorado's four House Republicans — Reps. Mike Coffman, Doug Lamborn, Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton — to support the Senate bill.
Through a statement issued after the rally, Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter joined rally organizers in calling on House Republicans to pass immigration reform, saying that by allowing undocumented persons a pathway to citizenship it would “lead to increased job growth and a stronger economy.”
“I hope House Republican leadership will work with Democrats in a bipartisan way to protect our borders and ensure those who are working hard, paying taxes, getting an education, learning English and not committing crimes are able to achieve their American Dream as a citizen of our country,” Perlmutter said.
Colorado House Republicans are concerned that the Senate bill doesn't go far enough in strengthening border security. Coffman said in a statement that in 1986, when Congress passed a major immigration reform bill, the promises made “on enforcement and border security were not promises kept.”
“I will look for solutions in the House that will provide for the reforms necessary to not only secure our borders but to verify that they remain secure,” Coffman said in the statement.
Coffman spokesman Dustin Zvonek did not wish to comment beyond what was in the statement.
Rally speakers brought up Coffman's upcoming re-election race, a contest that surely will receive national attention.
“Latinos came out in record numbers in the last election,” said Olivia Mendoza of the Colorado Latino Forum. “This is just the beginning.”
Ezequiel Ramirez, 19, of Highlands Ranch, voted for the first time last year, and is one of Coffman's constituents. Though he was born in the U.S., his parents were not.
“The message we want to get across is that this is potentially going to help out a lot of people,” Ramirez said. “It's going to help us become a better country. There's a lot of people counting on (Coffman) and it's really important for him to put his vote into this.
Asked by reporters how he'd characterize Coffman's re-election chances if he does not support the bill, Ramirez said, “Best of luck.”