Va. lawmakers discuss executive action on immigration

VIRGINIA (WAVY) — Virginia lawmakers spoke out Thursday evening, in support of and opposition to President Barack Obama’s executive action on the U.S. immigration system.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA):

In June 2013, I was proud to cast my vote in support of bipartisan legislation that would take major steps to fix our broken immigration system. After nearly a year and a half of inaction from the House, I support President Obama’s decision to take action within his executive authority to address some of the problems our bipartisan Senate bill set out to fix – including much-needed improvements to border security, updates to our visa system and additional relief for families who live in the shadows but want to play by the rules by paying taxes and submitting to criminal background checks. Every president since Eisenhower has taken executive action to address immigration issues. Still, this is only a first step. Many issues remain that can only be fixed through congressional action. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to get this done.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA):

The Senate passed a comprehensive bipartisan reform package more than 18 months ago, and so far the House of Representatives has failed to act.  Congress must step-up to fix our broken immigration system. That means securing our borders, reforming our visa programs, and implementing practical solutions for undocumented immigrants who currently live in the U.S. 

The President’s action mirrors many of the provisions in the bipartisan Senate legislation. While I understand his decision to take executive action, and while similar steps have been taken by every President in the past 60 years, executive action is not permanent. That’s why Congress needs to act legislatively to provide the long-term certainty that our families, communities and country deserve.

Congressman Scott Rigell (R-VA):

Immigration policy has been debated since the founding of our country. Indeed, Hamilton and Jefferson sparred over this in the Federalist papers. Therefore it is not surprising that we are debating immigration today.

However, the sweeping executive order announced by President Obama this evening broadens the topic to new and troubling ground. In direct contradiction to his own statements on the proper limitations of Presidential authority, he has granted what effectively amounts to executive amnesty to several million illegal immigrants.

Securing our borders – north, south, east, and west – should be the next step in advancing sound immigration policy.

Instead, the President’s actions fuel the widely held view, which I am convinced is causing much of the pressure at our nation’s borders, that ‘If you can get here, you can stay here.’

America is a nation of laws, and the President’s broad, unprecedented usurpation of authority from the legislative branch weakens the separation of powers, an essential element of our republic, and harms the foundational values that make our country so appealing to millions around the world.

As I serve our district, I am ever mindful of the invaluable contributions that immigrants have made in shaping our country. As fellow Americans, the good fruits of America’s immigration policies are reflected, quite literally, in our DNA. I am incredibly proud that our nation’s story cannot be told without sharing the meaning and significance of the Statue of Liberty, whose plaque so eloquently states:

‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’

In my continued service to VA-02, I remain committed to advocating for policies that elevate our nation’s values on immigration while ensuring that the values which make our homeland so special, including the rule of law, are not diminished.

Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA):

The President’s executive actions are limited in scope and will bring millions of undocumented individuals out of the shadows. There is ample legal authority and precedent for the President’s actions. Many past presidents¬, including Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, have exercised this legal authority to act on immigration. As the President stated tonight, he is limited in what he can accomplish alone and it is incumbent on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill 18 months ago, yet House Republicans continue to refuse to offer an alternative or even allow a vote on the bipartisan Senate bill. In light of this continued obstruction by House Republicans, I am pleased that the President has exercised his legal authority to at least try to improve our nation’s broken immigration system where he can.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA):

We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants, but we also define ourselves as a nation built on the rule of law. The President’s announcement tonight not only bypasses Congress, it bypasses the Constitution of the United States. I stand in strong support of the House Judiciary Committee in its use of every tool at its disposal to fight the Administration’s unilateral action defying the American people, their elected representatives, and the Supreme Law of the Land.

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