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In a Letter to the Editor to the Denver Post, Joy Athanasiou sets the record straight on the misleading claims made in an October 28 opinion piece: “Bennet’s plan to address crime falls far short”:

John Cooke and David Walcher’s opinion piece misrepresents Sen. Michael Bennet’s record and misleads on crime and the border.

On crime, the authors blur the line between local and federal officials by blaming Bennet, a U.S. Senator, for rising crime and how crimes are prosecuted in Colorado courts, which are not controlled by Congress.

While the authors are rightly concerned about the fentanyl epidemic, they ignore Bennet’s strong record. He fought to stem the tide of fentanyl and opioid abuse by stiffening penalties against opioid manufacturers, improving access to treatment, and providing more resources, including critical equipment, to law enforcement. And he’s secured more money for the Department of Justice COPS program to put thousands more officers on our streets — a 30 percent increase just this year. That’s the role of a U.S. Senator.

On immigration, Bennet has been a leading voice in Congress, working tirelessly to modernize our system and bring border security into the 21st century. He was part of the Bipartisan Gang of Eight, which wrote the last comprehensive immigration bill that not only provided a pathway to citizenship, but also $40 billion – a record amount of funding – for the border. The bill passed the Senate but was rejected by Republicans in the House.

Today, Bennet continues to fight for immigration reform, in part by advancing smart solutions at the border. Fentanyl is not carried over the border by migrants or traffickers. According to the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, over 90 percent of fentanyl is smuggled through ports of entry by U.S. citizens. Bennet pushes for enhanced technology and upgrading infrastructure at our ports of entry to improve drug detection capabilities, along with additional tools to crack down on cartels. He’s secured more resources and training for Customs and Border Patrol, and he’s held them accountable when they’ve broken the rules.

It is regrettable that anyone would politicize the fentanyl crisis, which has touched so many Coloradans, including my own family. Unlike Joe O’Dea, Michael Bennet doesn’t politicize this epidemic. He gets to work instead.

Joy Athanasiou, Denver

Editor Note: In case you missed it, in a Denver Post Letter to the Editor (LTE), immigration attorney Joy Athanasiou responded to a misleading Denver Post opinion piece about Michael Bennet’s work to address crime, support law enforcement, and fix our broken immigration system, pointing out:

  • He introduced the Supporting Mental Assistance Responder Teams (SMART) Community Policing Act, which would build on successful local models to fund programs that allow local law enforcement to focus on violent crimes and send mental health professionals to respond to people experiencing mental health crises or struggling with substance use disorders.
  • He is fighting for legislation that would help provide state and local law enforcement with high-tech devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs like fentanyl.
  • He passed the American Rescue Plan, which allowed Colorado to invest $600 million in mental and behavioral health programs, including substance use services. He also secured nearly $21 million in federal funding to help Colorado combat the opioid crisis.
  • He was part of the “Gang of 8,” a bipartisan group of Senators that authored a comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate 68-32. It included a tough but fair pathway to citizenship, the DREAM Act, an overhaul of our visa and guest worker system, and $40 billion for sophisticated, 21st-century border security.