11/19/2013 03:55 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

20,000 More Border Agents Isn't Good Enough for Coffman

Last week, The Denver Post's Allison Sherry reported Rep. Mike Coffman's view that undocumented adults should be given the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship, but only when the U.S. has an "independently verified secure border."

It's fair enough to report that Coffman claims to favor citizenship with conditions. But what does an "independently verified secure border" mean to Coffman?

We know that the immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate isn't good enough for Coffman, because Sherry, to her credit, reported that Coffman does not support the Senate bill, which would beef up border security. Sherry reported:

The Senate bill, which no Colorado House Republican supports, commits $38 billion on border security -- 20,000 new agents, 700 miles of new fencing, expensive technology such as drones and infrared cameras. [BigMedia emphasis]

What does Coffman want? Another 10,000 agents? Ten billion dollars more? With respect to verification, Coffman wrote in a Denver Post op-ed that he wants the border certified by "experts outside of the executive branch." Who is Coffman thinking of?

And if Coffman won't provide more details, a journalist could report his non-response.

Or a reporter might conclude that, until Coffman releases more details, it's more fair to say he really doesn't support citizenship for undocumented adults.

After interviewing Coffman about his immigration position in Sept. (Two months after Coffman's Post op-ed appeared.) and trying to understand his position on citizenship, The Post's Tim Hoover, for example, concluded that Coffman "favors legal residency, but not citizenship, for adult illegal immigrants."

The importance of providing specific information for the public become obvious when you contrast Coffman's immigration position with his opponent's.

Like Coffman, Democrat Andrew Romanoff says he supports "comprehensive immigration reform" and a path to citizenship. The difference is, Romanoff supports a specific plan, the bill already approved by the Senate.

Coffman doesn't support the Senate bill, but holds up no specific plan of his own, even though he says he supports "comprehensive immigration reform," like Romanoff does.

The public would be forgiven for not seeing much difference between Coffman and Romanoff on this issue because, without more details on what Coffman's thinking, their positions sound close to identical.

And maybe they are similar, but we're all in the dark unless reporters do their job and tell us what Coffman is thinking with enough specificity to make his broad rhetoric meaningful. Then his constituents will be able to make up their own minds.