Colorado Governor Pushes for Full Immigration Reform

Hickenlooper previously argued illegal immigrants don't want 'pathway to citizenship'

Gov. John Hickenlooper / Getty Images
January 10, 2018

Democratic Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said on Tuesday that the time for full immigration reform from Congress has come.

Hickenlooper appeared on MSNBC's "Live with Stephanie Rhule" Tuesday morning, the same day that President Donald Trump hosted bipartisan negotiations about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) immigration program at the White House.

"Maybe, I mean ideally, this should be the time that Congress steps up and does comprehensive reform, right?" Hickenlooper said. "You know, when I first got in to politics, I ran for mayor in 2003, I had never run for student council, this was an issue in 2003. … People were saying, 'Well, how are we going to address this immigration issue?' Let's finally do it."

Hickenlooper has not always been so keen on comprehensive immigration reform. Immigration groups criticized the Colorado Democrat in 2014 after he told the Wall Street Journal that citizenship was not a priority for many illegal immigrants.

"What’s amazing to me is, a lot of young Latinos, the vast majority don't care about a pathway to citizenship," the paper quoted him as saying. "They want to be able to get on an airplane and get down to Mexico City and visit their grandparents. And they want to get a job and be able to get paid over the table. Why don't we just take the pathway to citizenship and say, 'We're not going to worry about it.' Let's have a robust guest worker system where everybody gets five years and we secure the border and we actually hold business accountable if they're going to pay people under the table."

Hickenlooper modified his comments following the criticism, telling the Denver Post, "What I said in the interview, which didn’t come out, is I have always believed in a pathway to citizenship."

However, the governor made similar comments again in January of 2016, this time speaking to a group of community leaders.

"I think, when I talk to the young kids—now, this, these are not politically active young kids, but the, just the undocumented workers who I run, get to meet all the time at Metro State or when I'm out at a work project or someplace I always try to seek kids out—they don't care about the pathway to citizenship," Hickenlooper said to the group.

"They want to come out of the shadows, be able to have a job, be able to get on an airplane and fly, they want to live a life. And be able to use their education at a level at which they're, they've been trained. Uh, and they’re willing to gamble that in five years or ten years there’ll be a pathway to citizenship."

Hickenlooper announced in September that Colorado would join about a dozen states in a lawsuit to challenge the Trump administration's path on DACA. The state's attorney general had previously declined to join the suit.

Hickenlooper, who will be term-limited out of office early next year, is expected to be a player in the 2020 presidential campaign. Hickenlooper told MSNBC's Chuck Todd on Friday that he was "still just thinking about it," when it came to a possible presidential run.

Hickenlooper's office did not return a request for comment.