Sen. John Hickenlooper frustrates immigration activists with vote to block some from stimulus checks

U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper angered immigration activists and some fellow Colorado Democrats on Thursday when he supported a non-binding budget amendment aimed at prohibiting people who are in the country illegally from receiving pandemic stimulus checks.

“Usually politicians don’t slam the door shut on Latino voters so abruptly,” said state Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat. “Usually they Hispander for a few months after the election,” she added, using a pejorative term that refers to political pandering to Hispanics.

The amendment passed 58-42 with eight Democrats joining all Republicans in favor. But because it is non-binding, it’s unlikely to have any effect on Congress’ upcoming coronavirus relief legislation. Under current law, people in the country illegally are already prohibited from receiving stimulus checks.

“Budget resolution amendments are non-binding and lead to exactly the kind of circus that makes Washington so famously dysfunctional,” a spokeswoman for Hickenlooper said. “Instead of playing political games, John is laser-focused on getting us through the pandemic, rebuilding the economy and finding a long-term solution to fix our broken immigration system.”

The vote came during a U.S. Senate process colloquially known on Capitol Hill as “vote-a-rama” during which hundreds of non-binding amendments are decided on over the course of many hours. The minority party – in this case, Republicans – use the amendment votes to send messages.

Immigrant rights activists say Hickenlooper sent the wrong message with his.

“Colorado did not elect John Hickenlooper to the Senate so he could cast chicken[expletive] votes,” said Hans Meyer, a Denver immigration attorney.

The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition called it a “backstab.” The Colorado Working Families Party called his vote “unacceptable.” Angela Cobián, treasurer of the Denver Board of Education, called it “exceptionally disappointing.”

Sen. Michael Bennet, also a Denver Democrat, voted nay on the Republican amendment Thursday, leading to criticism from the Colorado Republican Party.

“Sadly, Senator Bennet chose to side with his liberal allies in giving Americans’ hard earned taxpayer dollars to illegal immigrants — those funds should instead go to help Colorado schools, teachers, businesses and families,” Colorado GOP spokesman Joe Jackson said.

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