Republicans are being increasingly attacked by Latino leaders and Democrats over a failure to push immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, something they feel could come back to haunt the party in the November elections.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez is the latest of local Colorado Republicans to face criticism following controversial remarks he made over the Fourth of July weekend in a radio interview.
The Colorado Statesman caught up with Beauprez at a counterterrorism event in Denver on Tuesday hosted by the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab, or CELL, where Beauprez clarified his eyebrow-raising comments when asked by The Statesman.
The former congressman caught national headlines when he offered praise for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer over her hard stance on immigration. Arizona passed a law in 2010 that gave police the authority to detain anyone without documentation of citizenship. The U.S. Supreme Court later struck the law down.
Critics compared the measure to apartheid in South Africa, or the Japanese American internment during World War II. They called it the “show me your papers” law.
In the radio interview, Beauprez said states should enforce federal immigration law themselves in the absence of federal action, “as Jan Brewer tried to do in Arizona.”
The comments gained attention after former Rocky Mountain News media critic Jason Salzman of the Big.Media.org blog posted a report in the left-leaning Huffington Post.
Beauprez stressed that if the federal government won’t crack down on enforcement, then states need to lead the charge.
“If the federal government doesn’t do it, then sue them and get an injunction against the federal government and force them to do their job in court,” Beauprez said on air. “This is a responsibility of the federal government. And if they won’t do it, states ought to be allowed to do it, as Jan Brewer tried to do in Arizona.”
The conversation also focused on the young undocumented immigrants captured recently along the U.S.-Mexico border. Some, including President Barack Obama, view the situation as a humanitarian crisis. More than 52,000 children have been caught crossing the United States border alone since October — double last year’s number.
Some governors are complaining that the federal government is sending undocumented children to their states without warning. Protests have ensued in California in which some citizens turned away buses carrying undocumented immigrants, including children.
“I was with a group of people the day before yesterday, and several of them were from our southern cities, Pueblo specifically,” commented Beauprez on air. “And they said, if buses show up, they will be in the streets to block them.
“I think you are going to see what happened in California start happening everywhere,” the gubernatorial candidate continued. “Governors on behalf of their states are going to have to be very vocal, very strong, and push back on D.C.… You have to face the reality that this simply is going to be another straw on the back that will fiscally impact states in a big way. It will culturally impact states in a big way. When you don’t enforce the rule of law, and this is the bottom line… chaos breaks out. And this is an example of chaos breaking out…
“Dumping people on another nation is just simply wrong, and governors ought to be telling the federal government, do your job, secure our borders, stop this kind of action, send these people back home. There ought to be orderly legal immigration for people who want to legally come here… however many or few that might happen to be, but this is absolutely wrong.” Beauprez added. “They are not political refugees. This is just wrong…
“It’s going to affect all the states out here, and the President is trying to gloss over it and tell us all the wonderful things we’re doing as a nation to accept all these people. He doesn’t tell us the impact on the people who are already here and are going to pay the bill,” Beauprez said earlier in the segment.
On Tuesday, he told The Statesman that the comments were taken out of context in a game by the “radical left.”
“It wasn’t as much about Jan Brewer’s policy as much as Jan Brewer was standing up for her citizens and saying if the federal government’s not going to protect them, somebody needs to,” explained Beauprez. “That was the point.”
As for the comments about blocking busloads of undocumented children if they are transported to Colorado, Beauprez said he was simply repeating comments he had heard.
“That was passed on because somebody in Pueblo told me that that would happen,” clarified the gubernatorial candidate. “That wasn’t me saying it. I said I had heard that from people in Pueblo.
“And that’s the kind of concern, that’s why this president needs to get his arms around this,” Beauprez continued. “You’ve got a volatile society and people are looking for leaders that are willing to address reality. You may not like reality, but you’d better deal with it.
“This didn’t just happen,” he added. “[Texas Gov.] Rick Perry sent the president a letter two years ago that said you’d better get on top of this, and he ignored it. Actions have consequences.”
Latino leaders: ‘Death to GOP’
But Latino leaders believe it is actually Republicans who are ignoring the situation by not advancing a comprehensive immigration reform package that offers a pathway to citizenship.
The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill a year ago that included a compromise conferring legal status on millions of undocumented immigrants while strengthening border security and tightening employment rules through an electronic system to verify residential status, known as e-verify.
But the Republican-controlled House has indicated that including a path to citizenship is a nonstarter without more border security. House Republican leaders have said that border security measures must be in place before a path to citizenship can begin.
At a rally on Tuesday in downtown Denver led by the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, Latino leaders and community groups held a mock funeral procession in which they declared, “Death to the Colorado GOP for killing immigration reform.”
Joining the demonstration was state Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.
“It is very frustrating that they have not been part of the solution to see comprehensive immigration reform, to actually get it done,” said Duran. “They have the power to do it and they’ve chosen to turn their back.
“If the Republican Party wants to be more inclusive and reach out to people from a variety of different backgrounds, this is the wrong way of doing it,” she added. “They have the power to get comprehensive immigration reform passed right now, and they’re choosing not to.”
Grace Ramirez, an organizer with SEIU, said the GOP’s stance on immigration would be the death of the party.
“It’s the death of the Republican-controlled Congress,” she said. “Our message… is you failed to act on this this year… I think it’s going to possibly lead to the end of [Republican] candidacies.”