On a press call held this afternoon, congressional immigrant rights’ champions Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) discussed President Obama’s new immigration actions in a bilingual conference call with reporters. The speakers, each immigration reform champions and leaders in Congress, highlighted their strong support for the president’s announced actions and made clear that they are already focused on the next step of helping qualified individuals get the information they need to come forward and apply.
According to Senator Robert Menendez:
This is a game-changer for millions of families who are now going to be able to stay together and no longer live in fear of deportation. Temporarily halting the deportation of productive members of our society and shifting limited resources towards removing serious criminals who actually pose a threat to our nation is a win-win for this country. Moving forward, it is incredibly important that those eligible for relief through this executive action are not dissuaded from coming out of the shadows and submit an application to get a shot at a better life and a chance at success. This is an imperative step to make sure millions come out of shadows, pass a background check, and pay taxes in exchange for a chance to participate in the American Dream.
The speakers also emphasized the fact that President Obama’s actions are well within his legal authority, but do not replace the need for Congress to finish the job and pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
As Representative Zoe Lofgren said:
Going back to 1952, presidents have used this same authority to deliver relief, so it’s disappointing to hear some of the shrill voices from the other side attack the president for his actions. With that said, there are limits on what presidential action can achieve and we still need to pass legislation. I look forward and remain willing to sit down with my Republican colleagues to work on a comprehensive bill that can finally get the job done.
In his remarks, Representative Luis Gutierrez noted that “the law gives the President latitude to act,” and referenced a 1999 memo signed by anti-immigration reform hardliner Rep. Lamar Smith, among others, calling on then U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to expand the use of prosecutorial discretion on immigration matters to avoid “unjustifiable hardships” and “unfair” deportations – an acknowledgment that the executive branch has such latitude and discretion. Concluded Gutierrez, “It has always been my argument that if the President acts, he leads, and he will encourage Republicans in Congress to finally act on immigration.”
Listen to a recording of Today’s Press Call here