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Hickenlooper among governors calling on Congress to fix DACA, end ‘holiday hostage situation’

Author: Ernest Luning - December 20, 2017 - Updated: December 20, 2017

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee during a hearing to discuses ways to stabilize health insurance markets​ on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee during a hearing to discuses ways to stabilize health insurance markets​ on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Gov. John Hickenlooper and a bipartisan group of governors on Wednesday called on congressional leaders to come up with a legislative fix before the end of the year to protect immigrants brought to the United States when they were children from deportation.

“This holiday hostage situation has gone on too long,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Like CHIP participants, DACA recipients sit in fear as their futures are used as bargaining chips. Lawmakers appear more concerned with personal agendas rather than advancing good policy.”

GOP leaders indicated Wednesday it was likely Congress would adjourn for the holidays before taking up measures to extend the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — cancelled in September by President Donald Trump and set to expire entirely in early March — or to restore funding for the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, which covers low-income children and some pregnant women and hasn’t been funded since Sept. 30.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, 11 governors urged the leaders to restore the immigration program, which covers nearly 800,000 young immigrants, sometimes referred to as Dreamers.

“Already, more than 12,000 Dreamers have lost their protective status and are susceptible to deportation,” the governors wrote. “This is not a theoretical peril, but in fact an immediate and urgent one, because more than 100 young people in our cities and towns are losing their protective status every day. Those numbers will accelerate dramatically without a legislative fix.

“Given this urgency, we encourage you to come together quickly to shape a bipartisan solution that allows our Dreamers to remain in the United States and continue their constructive contributions to our society.”

In addition to Hickenlooper, the governors signing the DACA letter include Republicans John Kasich of Ohio, Brian Sandoval of Nevada,  Charles Baker of Massachusetts, Phil Scott of Vermont and Gary Herbert of Utah; Democrats Steve Bullock of Montana, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Roy Cooper of North Carolina and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania;  and independent Bill Walker of Alaska.

Colorado lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have also implored congressional leadership to act on DACA.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican co-sponsor of legislation to give certain Dreamers legal status, was part of a group of GOP members of Congress who demanded a DACA solution from Ryan before the House adjourns for the year.

“We must pass legislation that protects DACA recipients from deportation and gives them the opportunity to apply for a more secured status in our country as soon as possible. Reaching across the aisle to protect DACA recipients before the holidays is the right thing to do,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter delivered to Ryan.

House Democrats including U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, have said they won’t help majority Republicans pass legislation to keep the government from shutting down at the end of this week unless the House takes up the immigration question.

According to congressional sources, however, Republicans might not need help from Democrats to pass a temporary spending measure sufficient to keep the federal government open through mid-January, easing pressure on GOP leadership to tackle topics they’d rather put off and deal with next year.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.