Updated 12:56 p.m. | THORNTON, Colo. — Immigration protesters ambushed Rep. Paul D. Ryan Wednesday as the Wisconsin Republican signed books at a Barnes & Noble here.
Ryan was confronted by Greisa Martinez, a national organizer with United We Dream. Martinez and three companions bought books and waited in line for Ryan. But once Martinez reached the front of the line, she asked Ryan questions about the lack of congressional action on immigration.
“I do not understand why you want to deport me and my mother? Why didn’t your party pass immigration reform when you had the opportunity,” she loudly questioned, mentioning the deferred action for childhood arrivals program. “Rep. Ryan, My name is Greisa Martinez I am DACA-mented and I am hear to stay!” One of her cohorts unfurled a banner and the store manager asked her to leave.
Ryan told her he wasn’t taking questions, and initially kept interacting with other book buyers, but ultimately ducked into a back room until police came and escorted Martinez out of the store.
The confrontation lasted about 10 minutes; all the while Martinez knocked on the door of the room to which Ryan had retreated. Police also whisked away two protesters who tried to ask Ryan questions later.
Ryan told CQ Roll Call he sees similar outbursts in states with major political contests, such Florida and here in Colorado. The Senate race between Republican Rep. Cory Gardner and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall could decide control of the chamber, and is rated Tilts Democratic by The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
“I didn’t get it in Texas; I didn’t get it in Oklahoma,” Ryan said in an interview after the signing. “In Florida, you’ve got huge governors race there, so I see it where there is a lot of agitated political activity.”
Ryan was the 2012 vice presidential nominee and his nationwide tour promoting “The Way Forward” could be seen as laying the groundwork for a future presidential bid.
After the book signing, Ryan said President Barack Obama would make it more difficult for Congress to tackle an immigration overhaul if he acts alone with further executive actions on the deferred action program.
“I think he will poison the well if he goes it alone,” Ryan said. “He should follow the Constitution. It’s just that simple to me.”
Gardner “has voted against me, my family, my community and we are not going to put up with that,” said Juan Juarez, a DREAMer who hails from Longmont, in Gardner’s congressional district.
Police eventually cleared the lobby after no one answered the congressman's door. But protesters moved to a patch of grass in front of the parking lot of the building, which also houses a bank.
The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition helped organize the protest. The activists have been pushing Gardner to clearly state his position on the issue of immigration. They contend that he has spoken generally on the issue, but has yet to satisfactorily reach out to the community.
“I feel like being in office since 2011 and him representing this area, which is heavily dependent upon agriculture, dairy, small business, mixed-status families, this should be a top priority for him,” said Sonia Marquez, CIRC's north region organizer, who was born and raised in the district.
The advocates contend Gardner is unfriendly to their community, even though he opposed a GOP proposal that passed the Republican-run House in July seeking to end the deferred action program.
Ryan dubbed the contest one that "could be the race to determine the Senate.”
“Colorado is a closely divided state,” Ryan said. “I’ve campaigned a lot here. ... It could go one way or the other. I really think Cory has got what it takes to be a great Senator. I think he’ll win. I feel good about his race. I hear great things about his race. But this is a really important race.”
For his part, Udall believes the Latino vote is integral to his staving off Gardner’s challenge.
“The Latino vote is very important, 20 percent of the state is Latino, and we know see that 15 percent of the electorate is Latino,” Udall told CQ Roll Call. “It’s very important, but not just for political [reasons], because the culture, and the sensibilities and the world view is woven through what is Colorado.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the day on which Ryan's book event took place.
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