SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
When is a farm bill an immigration bill? Well, this week, it was. Many hard-line conservatives in the House had wanted an immediate vote for a restrictive immigration bill. When they couldn't get the votes for that, 29 Republican members pulled enough support for - from the farm bill to sink it. At the same time, a challenge from the moderate wing of the party may be gaining. A group of Republicans have signed a petition to try to force a vote on DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - people who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children. One of those Republicans is Mike Coffman of Colorado. Representative Coffman, thanks so much for being with us.
MIKE COFFMAN: Hey, thanks for having me.
SIMON: Do you have enough signatures? Are you close?
COFFMAN: Well, I believe we do. And I think that there are - I think you're going to see a group that's prepared to come on to get us to that 25 signatures, Republicans, and then combined with the Democrats, we can force these immigration reforms to the bill - to the floor. And most notably, in terms of my district, my objective, is to bring a vote on DACA to the floor.
SIMON: Now, Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, says your efforts are futile because President Trump won't sign your bill. And the majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, according to Politico, said in a session, if you want to depress Republican voter intensity, this is the No. 1 way to do it. So why are you going to do this if the president won't sign it and your own party leaders say it's a bad idea?
COFFMAN: Well, first of all, I think this would be the first step in the process. And I support border security with DACA so - and I, and as well as those who have signed on this discharge petition process, I think share that view. I mean, we certainly support border security with DACA. And I think what we find is with Republicans too - I think most Republicans are very supportive of these young people, these young people who grew up in our communities, obviously taken here illegally as children, went to school in our communities, often know of no other country, that - to give them a path to citizenship based on affirmative behavior with their work history, their education, military service. And so I think we can combine that with border security. And so I'm not in disagreement there. But I think that for some reason there are some Republicans who feel the best thing - strategy going into the midterm is to ignore it. I disagree.
SIMON: Mr. Coffman, I have to ask you, since you kind of opened the door to this, you're in favor of letting children based on their good behavior staying here, but what about when it comes to splitting families?
COFFMAN: Oh, I think we - you know, I think that's part of immigration reform is to look at everything. And I think that we have to look at those individuals who have been in the country for a while, albeit illegally, haven't violated laws other than immigration laws. I think - look, I think we should move to a new system that is intolerant of illegal immigration. I think it makes it easier to come into the country legally - much tougher to come into this country illegally. I think we need a series of tougher laws, but we also need a transition to get there. And I think part of this transition - I'd like to see people who haven't violated other, you know, laws other than immigration laws to be able to come out of the shadows and have a legal status. In my view, it ought to be akin to what we call a non-immigrant visa. Let them work in this country without fear of deportation.
SIMON: But what if President Trump won't sign such a bill, which is what Speaker Ryan indicated? Does this mean you're going through all of the effort to make your own case in - right before the election?
COFFMAN: No. I don't think so. First of all, I think that the strategy of the White House, in my view, is to say that, look, let's just leave this alone. We've got a court order that says we can't terminate this program. We've got a second court order, I think, that says we have to allow people to, you know, to take new entrants into the program. And so it's not an issue that has to be dealt with right now. And so let's just let it go. Well, what the president said the first time around was let's do border security and part of that was his wall, which was really more of a replacement of existing wall if you look deep into his plan, as well as an increase in border security and the use of technology at the border to stop illegal crossings. So in exchange for DACA...
SIMON: We're just about out of time - just out of - just about out of time.
COFFMAN: Oh, sorry.
SIMON: Well, always good to talk to you. Thanks so much, Congressman.
COFFMAN: Oh, thank you so much. (Laughter) OK, thanks for having me.
SIMON: Representative Mike Coffman, Colorado's 6th District. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.