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Joe Salazar and Mike Coffman Spar over Migrant Family Separations

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
This article originally was published on June 21, 2018, at the Colorado Freedom Report, and ported here on May 26, 2024.

The good news from the perspective of liberty and human decency is that major Colorado politicians are now fighting over who is doing the most to protect migrant families detained at the border.

Unfortunately, some of the details have gotten lost in the social media spats, so we should seek to clarify who has said and done what.

In a June 17 Tweet, Colorado Attorney General candidate Joe Salazar said that Congressman Mike Coffman "did nothing" to "check the President" regarding "children being torn from their families."

To this, the Coffman campaign replied with some childish insults (as reported by Joey Bunch), but Tyler Sandberg, Coffman's campaign manager, also pointed out that Coffman issued a powerful statement on May 30 condemning migrant family separation.

I solicited this statement from Coffman and published it on Twitter, along with the statements of several other members of Colorado's congressional delegation. I compiled those statements, along with others, in a June 18 article for this publication.

In a follow-up interview today, Sandberg said that Coffman has been on the forefront of immigration reform "for many years." Coffman has long advocated a "three part test" for immigration, Sandberg said: "keep families together," "strengthen our borders," and do "what's best for our economy."

Coffman advocates "a merit-based immigration system," Sandberg said. Coffman advocates quotas "based on our economy's needs." Coffman also believes that children "who came here through no fault of their own" "should have a path to come out of the shadows." Sandberg said that Coffman proposed a bill in 2013 to give DREAMers an "earned path to citizenship" by serving in the military. Coffman was inspired, in part, by a young woman in his district "who was aspiring to greatness, and could not have the same opportunity that he had" to pursue a career in the military (she wanted to attend the Naval Academy) because "she was brought here illegally."

What is Coffman's view of prosecuting adults for misdemeanor illegal entry and detaining them and their families? Sandberg said that is "a very difficult conundrum." Part of the answer, he said, is to make sure that people seeking asylum are able to legally do so and are not rejected "in violation of current law."

I asked in a follow-up Tweet: "Does Coffman have a detailed plan for reuniting families already torn apart?" (I will update this article when and if I receive a reply.)

Unfortunately, Coffman's May 30 remarks went unnoticed by some, leading to some confusion. In a June 20 Tweet, "writer and editor" Chase Woodruff said of Coffman, "He said nothing about family separation before Monday. Nothing."

After Sandberg pointed out my May 30 Tweet featuring Coffman's statement, Woodruff replied (to Sandberg), "gimme a fucking break, dude. Quietly responding to some blog nobody reads isn't being 'outspoken.' You hedged your bets and didn't issue any official statement until the dam had already broken." To clarify, I initially posted Coffman's remarks only to Twitter (having told his campaign team that I planned to publish them); I did not relaunch the Colorado Freedom Report until June 16.

I would point out to both Sandberg and Woodruff that we can help to improve the political climate in Colorado and nationally by remaining civil.

I did reply to Woodruff, "You don't have to convince me that generally members of Congress have not been sufficiently proactive on immigration reform."

Both Salazar and his primary opponent Phil Weiser have issued detailed statements on their respective web sites about their plans for the attorney general's office with respect to immigration.

I asked the Republican in the race, George Brauchler, for his position on the matter. I also asked Salazar for a rebuttal to Sandberg's statements from our interview. I have not yet heard back from either party. I will update this article when and if I receive replies.

Update: George Brauchler (via his staff) emailed me the following remarks:

I am a father of four, ages 15, 13, 10, and 8, who look to me and my wife for protection. Mercifully, I cannot imagine the horror of having them taken from me. It is gut-wrenching to see children separated from their parents at our border. It is impossible to be a parent and not recognize that what is taking place is wrong, no matter how many administrations have engaged in it.

The status quo for enforcement of our immigration laws is not working, but our Constitution and the Supreme Court have made it clear that it is exclusively a federal issue. Our immigration system is broken. It must be fixed. This administration and Congress must fix it. If the current members cannot or will not fix it, then we must elect those who will.

But make no mistake, the immigration laws on our books—whether you agree with them or not—are laws to be obeyed and enforced. We must control the laws that govern us, including immigration laws. The principle of the Rule of Law makes clear that there are three things we can do with our laws: we can enforce them, if we do not like them we can change them or repeal them, but we cannot—we must not—pretend they do not exist or try to thwart them. That is not the Rule of Law. That is the Rule of Whim. That is lawless.

As Attorney General, my commitment and my duty are reflected in the same oath under which I have served as District Attorney to 1 million Coloradans: I will protect Coloradans by upholding and defending our laws and our Constitution, and I will stand up to a federal administration that seeks to overreach its authority into our great state. More Colorado, less DC.

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