Meng Welcomes President's Use of Executive Action on Immigration

Nov 20, 2014
Press Release

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) tonight welcomed President Obama’s use of executive action to protect millions of immigrants from deportation, just one week after she signed a letter to the President asking him to do so.

“I welcome the President’s broad and bold step to improve the nation’s broken immigration system,” said Meng. “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,” added Meng. “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.”

The letter Meng signed to the President is attached. It also included the signatures of 116 other Democratic Members of Congress.

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Dear Mr. President:

It is most unfortunate that Republican leaders in the House refused to allow a vote on the bipartisan immigration reform bill the Senate passed last year. Even today, if Republican leaders allowed a vote, the bill would pass. But they won’t.

When Republicans blocked legislation, your pledge to use Presidential power under existing law to improve our immigration system gave us hope. Without such changes, our economy will continue to suffer and families in our communities will continue to be torn apart.

Although we were very disappointed when you postponed action until after the November election, we were encouraged last week when you reaffirmed your promise to act before the end of the year.

We hope that your actions will prevent the separation of undocumented family members of U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and DACA beneficiaries and offer protection to others who have long worked in the United States and have established strong ties with our communities. We similarly hope that you will recognize that undocumented farmworkers are “essential for agriculture” and that our country would benefit greatly if they were permitted to work in our fields without fear. We further hope that you will reform our immigration enforcement efforts to make them more sensible and humane.

Bold and meaningful executive action will provide a boost to our national and local economies. It will strengthen communities and promote family unity. It will help the government focus limited enforcement resources on those who pose a true danger to the public. And by providing an opportunity for millions of undocumented immigrants to register with the government—provide detailed biographic information, undergo criminal background checks, demonstrate continuing compliance with tax laws—it will protect American and immigrant workers alike by reducing the threat of exploitation and abuse.

The legal authority for taking executive action is clear and substantial. Just two years ago, the Supreme Court under Justice John Roberts reaffirmed that the administration retains “broad discretion” to decide “whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.” Arizona v. United States, 132 S.Ct. 2492, 2499 (2012). And executive action in this area is anything but unprecedented. In fact, every past President, starting from President Dwight D. Eisenhower more than half a century ago, has used such authority when dealing with similar issues regarding the national interest.

Like us, you have heard Republicans warn that any actions you take will “poison the well” and prevent them from using their upcoming majority in the Senate to address our broken immigration system. However, for the past two years it was not Senate Democrats that blocked much-needed legislation, it was House Republicans. That obstacle to sensible immigration reform still remains. Let us also not forget that congressional Republicans previously blocked reform in 2006 and 2007.

As you said last week, “What we can’t do is just keep on waiting. There’s a cost for waiting.” That cost is measured in the tens of thousands of parents of U.S. citizen children who are deported each year. It is measured in the emotional price children and DACA recipients pay worrying about whether their parents will come home at the end of the day. Our national security suffers whenever we spend precious enforcement resources on hardworking immigrant families, rather than on criminals and those who mean our communities harm. And American workers’ wages and working conditions are consistently undermined as long as millions of immigrant workers are working in the shadows and off the books. We agree with you, Mr. President. We can no longer afford to wait.

As you have said, it is ultimately the job of Congress to reform our broken immigration system by enacting legislation. But by failing to do their job—and repeatedly interfering with your efforts to do your job—congressional Republicans threaten to take our immigration system hostage and preserve a status quo that everyone agrees is unacceptable. Their failure to act must not inhibit your commitment to governing.

We will stand with you as you take bold and meaningful action, consistent with existing law and historical precedent, to protect American families, strengthen local communities and grow the economy.

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