Members of Congress began reacting to President Obama’s speech on immigration Thursday afternoon even before it was delivered.
We’ll post statements from members of the Washington state congressional delegation as they arrive.
Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina:
“Everyone agrees that our immigration system is broken, but after more than a year of refusing to act on immigration reform legislation, House Republicans have shown themselves to be unwilling to make progress on this important issue. Time and again, they have refused to bring meaningful legislation to a vote on the House floor. If Republican leaders allowed a vote on H.R. 15, the bipartisan bill that I helped introduce, it would likely pass by a strong majority.
“In light of House Republicans’ consistent failure to act on immigration reform, I understand President Obama’s decision to take reasonable steps to provide temporary relief to the families being torn apart by our current system. The Administration should focus its limited enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to public safety, not honor students and workers contributing to our economy. We must continue the critically important efforts to ensure a secure border and the deportation of dangerous criminals, and the President’s actions today are consistent with this priority.
“The only long-term solution to fix our broken immigration system is for Congress to fulfill its responsibility to pass legislation. My commitment to passing immigration reform remains unwavering, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to achieve this goal.”
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue:
“I strongly support the President’s executive action on deportation relief. This action is long overdue and will bring millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. It will provide relief for many families and children living in constant fear of deportation by allowing for discretion to focus law enforcement resources on individuals who truly pose a risk to our communities. I’ve met many undocumented immigrants who are law-abiding fathers, mothers, and children who have lived in the United States the majority of their lives and have contributed greatly to communities. I do not believe these individuals should be deported or be forced to live in constant fear of being deported. This executive action is a good step, but millions of undocumented immigrants will continue to live in fear. To truly address our broken immigration system, Congress must pass a permanent comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill.
“Congressional inaction on this issue is incredibly frustrating because CIR has bipartisan support and could pass tomorrow if a vote were allowed in the House. Over a year ago, the Senate passed CIR with large bipartisan support and the House introduced a CIR bill shortly afterwards. This means that for well over a year, Congress has had the votes to pass landmark CIR with a pathway to citizenship. Shamefully, Speaker Boehner and House Republican leadership have refused a vote on the bill and obstructed the process for purely political reasons. In the meantime families and children have continued to be ripped apart by our broken immigration system.
“Both Republicans and Democrats agree that we must address the fact that 11 million undocumented immigrants are currently living in the shadows. However, House Republicans have not only failed to offer a plan to address this problem and obstructed legislation that does, they’ve also insisted on moving backwards with continued attempts to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides deportation relief for DREAMers. The failures of Republican leadership have forced the President to use his legal authority to act. His executive action to provide relief for millions is well within his legal authority. There is a long list of Presidents who have used deferred deportation as a form of discretion, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush Obama is simply expanding the list of those who should receive deferred action and I commend him for doing so. In Congress, I have strongly advocated for deportation relief, reforms to our immigration detention policies, and for CIR. I will continue to do all I can to work with my colleagues to pass a meaningful CIR bill that keeps families together.”
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane:
“Tonight the President articulated his plan to act unilaterally on one of the most significant issues facing America: the future of 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country. His decision to act alone blatantly disregards the will of the American people: for their elected leaders to work together and enact effective, long-term solutions that make people’s lives better. Tonight the President has done exactly the opposite. He has revealed that his own desire for unilateral action trumps the democratic process upon which this country was founded.
“When it comes to fixing our broken immigration system, the American people want a permanent solution, not a quick fix. They want the most effective solution, not the most expeditious one. They want their elected leaders to come together, transcend partisan divisions, and advance real, common-sense solutions. Make no mistake: I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle – and I will listen to the American people – to get immigration reform right. I urge the President to join us in that effort.”
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett:
“I understand the President’s decision today to defer deportation for millions of immigrants here illegally who have children who are American citizens or legal residents. Our country’s immigration system should not focus on tearing families apart, but instead on upholding national security and public safety. That is one of many reasons why the real solution to the complex issue of immigration must be comprehensive, like the reform bill I have long supported.
“Republicans should channel their outrage about the President’s decision into voting on the bipartisan comprehensive reform bill the Senate already passed. The President has said Congressional action would override his executive order, so there is a clear solution to Republicans’ indignation – let the House vote.
“Because of House Republicans’ inaction, I asked the President earlier this year to consider expanding prosecutorial discretion guidelines that account for ties immigrants have here, like close family members in the U.S. who are citizens, legal permanent residents, or DREAMers. I support steps like this within the confines of the law that focus resources on those who pose a threat to public safety, not separating families.”
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray:
“As President Obama said this evening, America is a nation of laws, and the actions he announced reaffirm that legacy while continuing our shared commitment to national security and public safety.
“In Washington state and around the country, immigrants are a critical part of our communities. But because of our broken immigration system, these men and women are forced to live in the shadows as Americans in all but name.
“By no means is this a long term solution. Plain and simple, the only way to fix our immigration system is to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. But until Congress is able to do that, I applaud the President for his leadership and his actions to support our economy and protect more than 4 million people from unjust law enforcement. This is an historic day, not only for the millions of men and women who can finally come out of the shadows, but also for our country’s identity as a nation of immigrants.
“More than 500 days ago, the Senate passed real, bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform legislation that would provide these men and women with a path to citizenship, support our economy, and improve our national security, but since then, Speaker Boehner has refused to bring up the Senate bill that we know would also pass in the House of Representatives. Because the Speaker simply refuses to move our nation forward and act, President Obama is right to take action to improve our immigration system.
“The President’s actions today are only a first step. In the months to come, there will be lots of work to do to ensure families and businesses can safely and reliably adjust to these changes. And until Congress passes true, comprehensive immigration reform, I will continue working each day to help the families and businesses trapped by our broken system.”