Over 50 people crowded into Colorado’s Delight Me Sweets bakery in Thornton Saturday afternoon to speak with their state representative about defending freedom, protecting immigrants, and preparing for the worst under a Trump administration.
State Rep. Joe Salazar, a Thorton Democrat who recently announced he’ll run for Colorado Attorney General, said he arranged the meeting to rally his community together and prepare to fight against the divisive agenda heralded by Trump, whose presidency he referred to as “the biggest con in U.S. history.”
The majority of discussion centered around Salazar’s pro-immigrant and refugee bill, the Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act. The bill would prohibit the state from assisting the federal government in arresting, detaining, interning, or registering any Coloradans on the basis of their race, immigration status, religious affiliation, or national origin.
Critics of the bill say it will inhibit the deportation of criminals, but Salazar has tried to assure them that isn’t the case.
“If you commit a crime, you still get arrested,” Salazar said, adding that being undocumented in the United States alone isn’t a crime. He argued the bill is about protecting Coloradans from federal government overreach.
“I couldn’t imagine any more of a Republican bill that Representative Joe Salazar, a liberal Dog House Dem member in the House of Representatives could bring,” said Salazar.
He and his fellow “Dog House Dems” tend to align farther left than their Democratic colleagues, and yet, Salazar’s bill is indeed steeped in traditionally conservative ideals; boiled down, it is a pro-state’s rights bill that ensures religious liberty. Furthermore, its name suggests its purpose is to defend freedom, and invokes former Colorado Governor Ralph Carr, a Republican.
“For some reason, they’re upset about that,” said Salazar. “I don’t get it.”
Several states are considering similar measures, but in using Carr’s name, Salazar’s bill goes a step further in addressing the nation’s dark past of rounding up and detaining Japanese-Americans.
Carr was a fierce advocate for the rights of Japanese-Americans amid the hysteria and bigotry directed at them following Pearl Harbor. He refused to condemn them as untrustworthy citizens or intern any Coloradans, a publicly unfavorable move that likely cost him his political career. Invoking Carr’s name calls to mind a sinister moment in American history that Salazar believes has reverberations in the Trump era.
“I hate being all doomy and gloomy, especially on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, but this is the world that we live in right now,” said Salazar. “This bill serves as both the sword and the shield against this federal government.”
One attendee asked Salazar if he’d made contact with any of Carr’s family members. Salazar replied that he’d been asked a similar question by one of his Republican colleagues who disapproved of the choice to reference Carr. The bakery erupted in cheers when he said he responded by showing his colleague an email in which Carr’s nephew expressed his full support for the bill.
Salazar said he’d been expecting some to show up to protest the bill, but it appeared that only supporters were present. “That’s indicative of something,” he said.
The crowd also cheered when Salazar said he responds to those accusing him of being a “Muslim lover” and an “illegal alien lover” by agreeing with them.
Salazar is especially committed when it comes to keeping families together, and pledged to drop everything to help out when he hears about Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents showing up at schools.
“They’re really going to the schools?” asked one woman.
“Yes, they are,” Salazar replied, going on to tell her about an incident involving an ICE agent who showed up to a Denver public school to deport the father of a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient who had spoken at a recent rally.
“When it boils down to it, we’re humanists,” Salazar said of the Democratic Party, urging attendees to even show compassion for Trump supporters in the community who may end up regretting their vote somewhere down the line.
Conservatives have criticized the bill by saying it aims to make Colorado a “sanctuary state,” but Salazar pointed out the positives of the word “sanctuary,” which relates to churches.
“They’ve turned it into a dirty word,” said Salazar. “Well, I’ve taken their word state’s rights, and we’re turning it into something beautiful.”
The bill was approved by Colorado’s House Judiciary Committee last week and is headed to the full House for debate tomorrow.