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GOP Rep. Mike Coffman On Keeping DACA

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Now we'll hear from Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado's sixth district. He's a Republican. And he says he'll attempt to force a vote on a House bill that would extend the DACA protections. He joins us from his office in Colorado. Good morning, sir.

MIKE COFFMAN: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We heard from Kris Kobach there. I think you were listening. And he says the program is not legal. What's your view?

COFFMAN: Oh, I think he's right to the degree that there is constitutional case law that says a president cannot unilaterally, through executive orders, make immigration law without the consent of Congress. And so by moving forward with this legislation, we are dealing - we are going to address that constitutional problem by putting it into law. And so I think it's important to do this. And that's why I'm doing the discharge petition to force a vote on this issue.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why is it important to do that?

COFFMAN: Well, I - you know, I think these are young people that were taken to the United States illegally as children and that grew up here, went to school here, oftentimes, know of no other country. There's no question we need to do immigration reform and find a solution. I think it makes it much more difficult to come to the country illegally and easier to come to the country legally for those people that we need here.

But these - you know, I think we need - there's got to be some level of compassion here in that, you know, I've got a young lady that came in to my office a couple of years ago, wanted to go to the Naval Academy and graduated top of her class from one of our public high schools. She had all, I think, the right, you know, the right markings for somebody who I would nominate for the Academy. But her parents took her from Mexico when she was only a year old.

Now she's never been back to Mexico. She doesn't know anything about Mexico. This is the only country she's ever known. And she wants to serve the only country she's ever known in the military. I think she ought to be allowed to do so. So DACA is just a temporary solution. We need a permanent solution for these young people. I think, quite frankly, they need a path to citizenship based on military service, based on education or based on work history.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just briefly, what does your proposed bill do exactly?

COFFMAN: What the bill does is - a bipartisan bill - it extends DACA out for three years. Puts it in law. Takes care of that constitutional question that was raised by the Kansas secretary of state. And - but it gives certainty to these DACA recipients. And it gives breathing space for the Congress of the United States to find a permanent solution.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, the issue, though, is that you do not have a lot of support from your caucus on this. You need 23 GOP votes to trigger a House floor vote, and you only have 12. Immigration is an issue that divides the Republican electorate, as well. How are you going to make the case to your colleagues who are wary of the political costs?

COFFMAN: Oh, I think if the Democrats hold firm, I think there is - there will definitely be enough Republicans to get on this bill. The - people are reluctant to get on it if they know - if they don't know it's going to be voted on. And so I think this challenge from the Texas attorney general who's given this deadline of September 5 in which I believe the president will announce that he's suspending the program based on that constitutional question raised by the Texas attorney general - I think that that's a catalyst, really, to force the Congress to deal with these issues.

Do we really want the visual of deporting these young people that are working in - often working and going to school, you know, in higher education? I mean, do we really want that? And I don't think we want that visual. I don't think it reflects well on this country. So I think by forcing Congress to act, I believe that we will have the necessary bipartisan votes to pass in the House, pass in the Senate and get it to the president's desk.

I hope that the president, when he announces the suspension of the program, also says that I want a bill on my desk passed by the Congress that puts this into law and takes care of the constitutional issues. That's what I hope the president says.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado sixth district. Thank you very much.

COFFMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.