A warning to his friends in the House.

Photographer: Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Freshman Senator Warns Fellow Republicans on Immigration

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, a conservative Republican, warned his former colleagues in the House that they made a mistake by voting to roll back President Barack Obama's executive action shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

"Instead of just saying 'no,'" Republicans need to "actually come up with a solution," Gardner said in an interview on Public Broadcasting System's "Charlie Rose" program. "Just to stop this or that isn't the best foot forward."

House Republicans voted yesterday to block Obama's November action shielding as many 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, as well as the president's 2012 action offering similar protection to so-called Dreamers, or young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as infants or children. The measures were attached to a larger bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security through September. The provisions face almost certain rejection by the Senate and, if not, a presidential veto. There is little support among Democrats for such actions.

Gardner, who was interviewed before the House vote, was elected to the Senate last November in Colorado, which has a significant Hispanic population; he effectively sought support from some of these voters. He had served two terms in the House of Representatives, where he was a popular conservative in Republican circles.

But, reflecting his statewide office, he cautioned Republicans to avoid sending an excessively negative message on immigration. He disagreed with Obama's executive order in November, though he supported the 2012 action on the Dreamers.  Now he believes his party should start with bills to beef up border security along with a guest-worker program, which would ultimately be followed by a move to legal status or citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants.  

"At some point that will be one of the solutions that is reached," he said in the interview.

Gardner was sworn in as senator last week by Vice President Joe Biden, who called Gardner's 91-year-old grandmother. She told Biden she couldn't talk because she wanted to watch her grandson's swearing-in.

Since then, Gardner said, his grandmother has called him "asking me to call the vice president and apologize for hanging up on him." He hasn't called Biden, he said, but added that the vice president "loved" that moment.

The full interview aired on PBS last night and will be broadcast tonight on Bloomberg Television.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net