I read Congressman Mike Coffman’s guest editorial in the Aurora Sentinel (May 18 edition) about the country’s need for immigration reform. I share his sentiment and want to thank him for his leadership on this issue.
In the piece, Congressman Coffman touched on sanctuary cities, which we hear a lot about in the news lately, then did an excellent job explaining how cities that shelter undocumented immigrants are not the real issue, but rather our broken immigration system as a whole. What followed was a logical and well-thought-out description of how to reform some key components.
First, it’s clear that safety is an important and necessary impetus to reform. Direction at the federal level has specified that for public safety reasons, there is a need to deport undocumented individuals with a violent history who are currently here in the country. However, this has created tension between ICE agents and local law enforcement. Police Chief Nick Metz has repeatedly stated that local Aurora law enforcement will not act as federal immigration agents – and for good reason. If immigrants fear deportation, they are more likely to live in the shadows and less likely to report crimes. Congressman Coffman encourages local officials to cooperate with ICE when it comes to public safety, but clearly a fine balance will need to be sought.
Everyone agrees that immigration laws need to be enforced in order to help stop the influx of people entering into our country, but I was happy that Congressman Coffman sees a more rational approach to securing our borders, rather than building a wall. Instead of focusing efforts on keeping people out of our country, he suggests utilizing the E-Verify for employers to ensure they are employing individuals with a valid visa. Our immigration system was last reformed 27 years ago and technology has vastly evolved since then, so it makes sense to utilize it to streamline verification and make it easier for employers.
However, prior to mandating E-Verify, there must first be a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., and Congressman Coffman appears to take a humane and realistic approach to this. He speaks to creating a transitional period, allowing a window of opportunity for immigrants to feel safe enough to come out of the shadows, to go through background checks, and if they pose no threat to be allowed to remain in the country with legal status. This not only addresses the concerns about separating families but also the economic impacts of deporting such a large number of undocumented immigrants. And I was more than pleased that Congressman Coffman believes we need to find a pathway to legalization for youth who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. He’s not only talked about this, he’s helped introduce two bills, the BRIDGE Act, a bipartisan effort, and the RAC Act – each through differing means would allow these kids and young adults an opportunity to remain in the country legally to live, work and study.
Comprehensive immigration reform will be a tedious yet necessary effort. I’m proud that our district is represented by a congressman willing to work across the aisle, to take an accurate assessment of our current immigration situation, and to offer real solutions. I hope Congressman Coffman will serve as an example to the rest of our Colorado delegation and that all of our representatives will take a leadership role in working towards reform.
Alex McShiras is an associate attorney with Joseph Law Firm in Aurora.