WASHINGTON — Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), the only immigrant serving in the U.S. Senate, released a statement Friday supporting President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration enforcement.
The actions Obama announced Thursday night will make about 5 million immigrants in the country eligible to avoid deportation. The administration is also setting new enforcement priorities that could make it easier for more people in the U.S. illegally to stay in the country.
“This is a big step toward bringing millions out of the shadows to help strengthen our economy and our national security,” said Hirono. “Every single president since Dwight Eisenhower, Democrats and Republicans alike, has exercised executive action on immigration. President Obama is no different in this move.
“Last year the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill that I was honored to help shape. I will continue to fight for reforms that allow families to stay together, and urge Congress to take action to fix our broken immigration system.”
Following are statements from other APA members of Congress.
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside): “Today’s long overdue executive action by President Obama will help bring millions out of the shadows and into a society that no longer takes advantage of them. This is not amnesty. It is an opportunity for millions of people in this country to no longer live under the fear of deportation – people who are working, paying taxes and raising families.
“We need to refocus our immigration system on making our border more secure, creating an efficient naturalization process, and prioritizing enforcement of the law against criminals, not families with children. This executive action does just that.
“Our current immigration system has been broken for quite some time and despite that well-known fact, House Republicans have failed to act in the 500 days since the Senate passed their comprehensive legislation. With House Republicans not interested in solving the problem, the president has chosen to take actions similar to the ten presidents prior to him who issued similar forms of immigration relief.
“While I certainly wish the president would have provided protection to many more undocumented immigrants, this relief is a good beginning. However, this is not a long-term solution, as nothing will replace action from Congress. I urge Speaker [John] Boehner to hold a vote on the Senate immigration bill as soon as possible so that once and for all, we can bring every undocumented immigrant out of the shadows and on an earned path toward citizenship.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose): “Today, President Obama has taken an important first step towards fixing our broken immigration system with his executive action. I applaud his decision to implement programs that will delay deportations of up to 5 million people. This will make our immigration system more fair, humane, and workable.
“It is unfortunate that he was forced to take this action because Speaker John Boehner has not allowed the House to do its job and vote on comprehensive immigration reform.
“As the Immigration Task Force chair of CAPAC (Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus), I look forward to continue working with the administration and the new interagency group in addressing some outstanding immigration issues that are particularly important to the AAPI community, such as reducing the employment visa backlog and reuniting families. Our current immigration system has 1.8 million people from Asian countries stuck in the family visa backlogs for decades. This is truly unacceptable.
“While the president’s announcement is a great first step, what we need is a permanent immigration reform package to be passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “I am pleased that the president is taking immediate action on behalf of millions of individuals who are currently living in our country and have strong ties to their community. His announcement this evening will offer temporary, legal status to 5 million parents of citizens or permanent residents, and individuals who have grown up calling this country home. This action brings people out of the shadows and allows federal law enforcement to use their resources pursuing felons, not families.
“The president’s actions do not absolve Congress of its responsibility to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate has already passed bipartisan legislation, but House Republican leadership has refused to allow a vote. We must enact long-term sensible reform that secures our borders, protects workers, supports families, and offers an earned pathway to citizenship for millions of individuals.
“It is past time for Congress to act. The American people demand a vote.”
Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove): “We need an immigration policy that makes our country safe and our economy strong. Unfortunately, our immigration system has been broken for years, and Washington gridlock has continually gotten in the way of meaningful reform. While I understand the administration taking action, only Congress can fix our nation’s immigration system in a holistic way once and for all.
“Now more than ever, Democrats and Republicans have to come together to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that secures our borders, allows our economy to grow, and ensures accountability for new American immigrants. I will continue to work with Republicans, Democrats, and the administration in any way I can to advocate for a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that truly solves the immigration issues we face.”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “I welcome the president’s broad and bold step to improve the nation’s broken immigration system. Of course, I prefer Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform; but with the GOP leadership still refusing to act, the president had no choice but to use his authority; the same authority that previous presidents have also used on immigration.
“Nearly a year and a half after the Senate approved bipartisan legislation to overhaul our county’s immigration laws, the bill continues to hang in limbo. Families remain separated, people continue to live in the shadows and progress is virtually non-existent.”
“For far too long, our country’s immigration laws have failed to work for the American people, and the president agreed that maintaining the status quo can no longer be an option. While I welcome the president’s decision, there is still much more that needs to be done to fix the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system, and I hope President Obama will do more should the next Congress still fail to move forward.
“As the daughter of immigrants and somebody who has long advocated for comprehensive immigration reform, I believe it is critical that everybody in the U.S. have the opportunity to achieve the American dream.”
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): “During my time in office I have consistently heard from individuals and groups throughout the political spectrum that believe we need comprehensive immigration reform that is practical, fair and humane and that will grow our economy. I was encouraged by the passage of bipartisan immigration reform last year in the Senate and am disappointed that the majority in the House of Representatives did not bring similar bipartisan legislation for a vote.”
“Given the inaction of Congress, I support the president moving forward with executive actions that will improve security at the border while prioritizing deporting felons, not families. It is now time for Congress to work together to enact comprehensive immigration reform that will improve our immigration system for the long term.”
Rep. 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.”