Our VoiceImmigration

Colorado Governor’s Race Gets Ugly as Candidates Jump on Anti-Immigrant Bandwagon

Lauren Taylor • Jul 17, 2014

 Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has his eyes on a higher office, and he is betting that picking on young asylum-seekers will help him get there. Between jokes with Vice President Biden, and pool with President Obama, he took time to publicly state his opposition to hosting children who have fled the ongoing crisis in Central America: 

“Our citizens already feel burdened by all kinds of challenges,” Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said Sunday. “They don’t want to see another burden come into their state.”

Hickenlooper’s cold comments follow similar statements from his Republican challenger, gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez.

In a July 5 interview with AM radio station KVOR, Beauprez declared, “Dumping people on another nation is just simply wrong.” He called on the federal government to “send these people back home,” and warned that if federal authorities were to transfer detained young people to Colorado, Colorado citizens would “be in the streets to block them.”

It’s clear that both candidates seem to think that closing their state off to young refugees will further their political careers.

A Crisis in Central America, a Surge in Bigotry in the U.S.

Young people escaping record levels of violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have increasingly sought refuge in the United States and neighboring countries including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Belize. While the crisis in Central America has complex causes, we must recognize that the US has a long history of meddling in the region, from present-day drug wars and trade policy to past support for totalitarian regimes.

In Texas, as processing and detention centers become increasingly over-crowded, federal authorities have begun to transfer detained youth to other states. These young detainees have been met with racist hysteria as anti-immigrant groups mobilize to block their transfer from Southern California to Michigan and Virginia to Arizona.

Bob Beauprez and Gov. John Hickenlooper

In his interview, Beauprez warned that there would be similar protests in Colorado should the federal government transfer children there. He also predicted financial burden and imminent cultural change:

“…this simply is going to be another straw on the back that will fiscally impact states in a big way. It will culturally impact states in a big way. When you don’t enforce the rule of law, chaos breaks out. And this is an example of chaos breaking out.”

His comments are quite similar to those of his recently defeated rival, Tom Tancredo, who declared that the children and young parents fleeing violence were all part of Obama’s plan to “fundamentally transform America.”

This rhetoric plays upon anxieties about changing demographics, and the changing racial and cultural composition of the United States. As the country becomes increasingly diverse (and anti-immigrant activists join longtime anti-Muslim activists to block buses in California) it’s clear that at least part of the opposition is about resistance to a multicultural and multiracial America.

Who is to Blame?

The anti-immigrant movement has been instrumental in creating this hostile cultural and political climate. But they are not alone. Recent nativist protests have benefited from the collusion and support of elected officials and public employees, particularly from Border Patrol and ICE. Politicians have jumped on the nativist bandwagon, amplifying the messages of the anti-immigrant movement, and turning their talking points into policy.

These political leaders aren’t just taking advantage of an upsurge in populist racism. They are taking the lead. They are shaping a conversation and fomenting racist hostility.

Sending children back to the danger they escaped should not be a stepping stone for higher office, or political power. Beauprez and Hickenlooper should be taken to task for their recent comments. In their haste to cash in on anti-immigrant hostility, both seem to have forgotten their legal and moral obligations to these young people.  It’s time to remind them.

Lauren Taylor is a field organizer at the Center for New Community.


Image source: Thomas Hawk/Creative Commons


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