By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– Democrats claim an audio tape of Congressman Mike Coffman, a Republican representing Colorado, proves he’s a hypocrite on immigration issues.

But the tape – from a fundraiser – isn’t nearly as incriminating as they would have you believe.

Rep. Mike Coffman (credit: CBS)

Coffman is heard saying, “I think we have to… we have to transition to zero-tolerance.”

His opponents insist that proves he’s in favor of separating families at the border. But, Coffman went to the border, called the policy “a human rights disaster” and pushed for reunification. He has consistently said the country needs to transition to zero tolerance but only after reforming the system for those here now.

(credit: Mike Coffman)

Coffman went on to say on tape, “For the adults who have been here, who have violated immigration laws but not other laws, what I say to them, give them the opportunity to come out of the shadows and give them something akin to a work visa. For the children that were taken here illegally, I feel a little different about them. I think they should have their own path to permanent legal residency and their own path to citizenship.”

(credit: CBS)

Critics also seized on another clip from the tape.

Coffman says, “The president has four pillars. One is, he probably has more generous plan on DACA than I would.”

(credit: CBS)

DACA is the program that protects Dreamers from deportation. Some 800,000 Dreamers are enrolled in DACA. The President’s plan would have given protection to a million more not enrolled in it. That’s what Coffman says he meant by “more generous.” While he’s sponsored bills protecting the 800,000 Dreamers, he’s also voted in favor of a bill protecting the 1.8 million.

Coffman’s district is the most diverse in the state and one of his most powerful blocks of support is immigrant communities, which is why his opponents are trying to muddy the waters and distort his record.

Coffman has broken ranks with Republican leadership on immigration – leading the fight for dreamers and calling the president’s border policy a “human rights disaster.” If his opponents can’t cut into his support with immigrant communities, they can’t beat him.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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