Debate among Colorado lawmakers got heated on Tuesday during consideration of a symbolic measure to denounce President Trump’s executive order temporarily barring refugees entry into the United States.
The measure, considered in the Democrat-controlled House, ultimately passed by a voice vote. Some Republicans said privately that they felt stung by statements made ahead of the vote by Rep. Joe Salazar, a Democrat from Thornton. Salazar chided Republicans for not backing the measure – House Joint Resolution 1013 – accusing them of supporting civil rights when it is politically expedient.
“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends,” Salazar said. “That’s another great Dr. Martin Luther King quote. You guys like coming up here when Dr. Martin Luther King day is happening. History is going to judge us very harshly because of what is happening just in the past week.”
Trump’s executive order has created panic among immigrant advocacy groups in the state. In addition to a temporary ban on refugees, it also restricts the entry of people from seven countries with predominantly Muslim populations.
While the issue is outside the realm of state government, some Democrats wanted to send a message against it. Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Commerce City Democrat and a sponsor of the measure, said Trump should have involved lawmakers in the process.
. “But we have a process that didn’t happen. There was confusion amongst the agencies: ‘how do we carry out this order?’ Congress was left out of the conversation.”
Republican House minority leader Rep. Patrick Neville, of Littleton, said his party supports immigration, but sees Trump’s temporary halt as necessary “to give the FBI, the immigration department, and others involved in national security time to come up with policies to protect the lives of American children, families and citizens.”
“Most Americans see this as wise,” Neville claimed.
Neville also called the symbolic resolution a distraction from other issues facing lawmakers, including education funding and improving the transportation system.
“One could wonder why this House is spending time talking about something we have no power to change when most Coloradans want us to tackle problems that are our responsibility,” Neville said.
Rep. Jonathon Singer, a Longmont Democrat, was looking for ways to heal any wounds between the parties that may have been caused during the debate.
“We need to find a way to forge bonds that will actually work in this chamber,” Singer said.
Some Republicans expressed the same sentiment; that they hoped to work well across the aisle. Their party controls the Senate but the governor is a Democrat.
“These are tough issues, but folks, let’s not call out and personalize because we differ on some of these issues,” said Rep. Yeulin Willet, a Grand Junction Republican. “We were never so galvanized as we were after 9/11.”