Gardner on Dream Act: ‘We can do this’
September 8, 2017
GRAND JUNCTION — U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on Friday said he believes Congress can find a way to protect so-called Dreamers — people brought into the United States illegally as children — from deportation.
Gardner, a Colorado Republican, is one of 10 senators formally backing the latest version of the so-called Dream Act. He and Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet became cosponsors of the bill Tuesday, the same day President Donald Trump rescinded Barack Obama's executive order that created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. About 17,000 immigrants in Colorado are covered by DACA.
At a town hall at Colorado Mesa University, several of the people who took the mic to ask questions started by thanking Gardner for supporting the proposal.
"We need a bipartisan solution on how to address children brought to this country by no fault of their own," Gardner said. "We can do this."
Trump has given Congress six months to address the issue — first proposed in 2001 — and it is unclear how the latest proposal, with six Senate Democrats and four Republicans signed on, will play and how quickly it can move.
One attendee also asked about Gardner's stance on the proposed wall between United States and Mexico — specifically that Trump originally said Mexico would pay for the wall, but now the president might press Congress to provide money.
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Between health care and natural disaster relief, the attendee asked, "how can we possibly spend money to divide people?"
Gardner said that in areas that walls are appropriate, such as metropolitan areas, "there should be a wall, it can be built and it makes sense," citing border security as something countries are supposed to provide.
The bigger issue related to immigration, Gardner said, is that 42 percent of the 11 to 12 million people in the United States illegally came on valid visas but overstayed because the system wasn't equipped to handle the next step.
"We need to fix that entry/exit system legislation," Gardner said.
Gardner addressed the need to make sure the system gets labor where it is needed, giving examples of peach orchards in Palisade and melon operations in La Junta. Limitation or discontinuation of J-1 visas, the exchange visitor program, also could have a "tremendous impact" on the local ski industry, Gardner said.
Gardner also commented on the coming together of Americans in the wake of adversity and destruction.
"We see a lot of division in this country," he said. "It's OK to have disagreements in this country. It's good to have disagreements. But I think what we did and what we've witnessed as our fellow Americans suffered some of the greatest tragedies of their lives in Houston and other cities in Texas and now Florida … we put those differences aside and we help people out. We come together as a nation."
Gardner addressed and answered questions for nearly 90 minutes on important issues, but the town hall was frequently interrupted with boos and cries of disagreement from the audience.
An attendee asked Garner to give his stance on human activity being the primary driver in significant climate change, especially given the recent and ongoing hurricanes and wildfires.
"I believe in climate change, but what I will not do is destroy our economy to pursue policies," Gardner said, which was met with boos. "I don't want to pursue reckless policies that will destroy our economy."
Gardner instead advocated and encouraged change at the local level. He expressed belief in an all-of-the-above energy policy that would include natural gas, oil and coal along with renewable energy.
"I believe science will lead to a place where we can have it all," Gardner said.
Another attendee asked about Gardner's stance on a joint U.S. House and Senate resolution Trump signed in April that nullified regulations banning certain "predator control" hunting methods on national preserves in Alaska. The attendee said she didn't want to see Colorado's wildlife suffer from hunting and trapping and added that she believed cattle ranching decimated the land as well.
"I disagree that farmers and ranchers are destroying the environment," Gardner said. "Farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of our land this country has."
Gardner added that he continues to support hunting, sportsmen and access to public lands, saying its part of peoples' rights and heritage.
"It's an important part of who we are," Gardner said. "I don't think we should block off areas of our public land from hunting or trapping."
When asked about health care and repealing the Affordable Care Act, Gardner was direct.
"I think we need to repeal Obamacare," he said. The crowd yelled out boos and calls of "don't repeal it, fix it."
Gardner said that the Colorado Division of Insurance is looking at an average cost increase of 27 percent next year for the 12 percent or so of state residents who buy their insurance on the ACA-related exchange.
"What we have right now isn't working," Gardner said. "What we had before ACA wasn't working. We need a bipartisan solution that will decrease cost, increase quality of care."
Gardner asked the audience if they support single-payer insurance. He estimated about 95 percent of the crowd raised their hands. But, he said, in November, single payer was on the ballot under Amendment 69 and was soundly defeated by Coloradans.
"I do not support socialized, single payer," Gardner said. "I don't think the government should be or is capable or can afford to run a health care system. I don't think that would be in the best interest of Americans."