Gardner immigration

From left, National Immigration Forum executive director Ali Noorani poses with Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Cory Gardner of Colorado as they accept their Courage to Lead awards at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The National Immigration Forum handed U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado a valuable credential Thursday, as the Republican officeholder from Colorado accepted the National Immigration Forum’s Courage to Lead award.

Gardner was the co-winner with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois for his bipartisan work on immigration issues.

“I was honored to receive the ‘Courage to Lead’ award alongside my colleague Senator Dick Durbin for our bipartisan leadership to fix our broken immigration system. We came six votes shy of passing immigration reform a few years ago, and I work every day to secure those votes,” Gardner said in a statement.

RELATED: Denver immigration forum: Gardner hopes for reform before Supreme Court acts

“There is much more work to be done, and that includes finding a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers, 17,000 of whom live in Colorado — but I remain hopeful. I thank the National Immigration Forum for bringing together a diverse group of immigrants, business leaders, the faith community, law enforcement and more to work across party lines to find a long-term immigration solution.”

Gardner and Durbin engaged in a discussion on immigration at the ceremony in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Ali Noorani, the executive director of the forum, asked both senators about the moment they became passionate about immigration issues.

Gardner talked about growing up in tiny Yuma, an agriculture community on Colorado's Eastern Plains.

"Growing up immigration issues were all around me," Gardner told Noorani. "As a kid, you don't think about it that way. You just know your neighbors. You know the people you've grown up with, the people who would be there in the summer, then they'd be gone and they'd come back in the summer year after year. And you don't think about it when you're 6, 7, 8 years old, but as you grow older, you find out people's stories and what's happening."

When he thinks about immigration, he thinks about his three kids, and puts himself in the shoes of the migrant.

"If we were anywhere else in the world, what I would do to try to get my family, those three kids, to the greatest country in the world, the United States," Gardner said.

Watch the full discussion by clicking here.

Gardner has worked across the aisle on comprehensive immigration reform, at times defying President Trump, as part of the bipartisan "gang of six" working on reforms for the immigration system.

He sponsored unsuccessful legislation with fellow Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, another gang of six member, to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, called the Dreamers.

RELATED: Cory Gardner, Michael Bennet propose DACA fix with $25 billion for border security

The 37-year-old National Immigration Forum is a nonpartisan policy organization works to bridge differences on immigration issues at the local and national level. This year was the second that the forum presented awards to one Republican and one Democrat "for their courage to lead on immigration," said Ali Noorani, the organization's executive director.

He said the program honoring bipartisan solutions on immigration, "is a reminder that the majority of Americans can agree on practical, compassionate immigration solutions that help all Americans prosper.”

Gardner faces a stiff re-election challenge next year, and Democrats are investing heavily in Colorado to take him out, as flipping his seat is seen as a path to the party's majority in the chamber.

"Coloradans can't take Sen. Gardner at his word," Alyssa Roberts, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, said in an email. "He's flip-flopped on Dreamers, caved on protecting funding for Peterson Air Force Base and is fundraising with President Trump tonight, even while Trump is asking the Supreme Court to end DACA. Gardner is too busy looking out for himself to deliver results for Colorado."

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