Speaking to immigration protesters, Sen. Michael Bennet stays the course

Protesters cheer outside as occupiers hunker down to spend the night inside Sen. Michael Bennet’s office, demanding a “clean dream act” to pass the U.S. Senate, Feb. 7, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Immigration advocates occupied Sen. Michael Bennet’s office in Denver on Wednesday and spoke with the Democrat by phone while dozens more people waited outside.

They haven’t succeeded in steering him away from a proposed immigration deal that would include border wall funding.

Protesters occupy Sen. Michael Bennet’s office. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
What they wanted:

The occupiers wanted Bennet to use all available leverage to get protections for unauthorized immigrants. For some, that would include rejecting the sweeping budget deal announced in the Senate today.

“We’re still pushing for that, still pushing for withholding his vote,” said Emma Bliesener.

They also pressured the senator to publicly call for a “clean” Dream act — one that opens the door for DACA recipients to gain citizenship without increases to border security or other conditions.

Bennet is a member of the “Gang of Six,” a group of senators pushing for an immigration deal. Currently, that deal includes billions for a border wall and surveillance, plus limits on the family reunification program and the diversity lottery.

“You are a friend of the immigrant community, and you have the power and you have the clout to guide these conversations with the actors who could make this a bipartisan solution and a clear strategy,” Pamela Resindiz told Bennet over speakerphone.

Pamela Reséndiz speaks with Sen. Michael Bennet on speakerphone. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
What Bennet said:

“I am very grateful that you’re there and you’re advocating for yourself,” the senator said, inviting the group to stay as long as they liked.

But he said that an immigration bill couldn’t happen without compromise. Democrats only control 49 votes in the U.S. Senate.

“We can’t pass anything in the senate without 60 votes, and we cannot take for granted that we have those votes, so what I’m trying to do is figure out how to help write a bill that can get through, and can get to 60 and can be something that the immigrant community in Colorado can support,” he said.

Separately, Bennet spokeswoman Samantha Slater told Denverite: “Michael continues to work with his colleagues to find a bipartisan solution that protects Dreamers and keeps families together.”

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Corrine Rivera-Fowler, organizer with Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, holds a live stream of the occupiers for protesters outside to watch what’s going on inside Bennet’s office. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
What’s next:

The budget deal heads to a vote in the Senate on Thursday. From there, we’ll see what kind of immigration deal, if any, gains traction in Congress.

Kevin J. Beaty contributed to this report.