With the U.S. immigration debate nearing a critical moment, Connecticut’s delegation in Washington, D.C. stood behind President Obama, urging him to boldly and swiftly use his executive powers to reduce the the fear of sudden deportation that keeps millions of undocumented immigrants, mostly Latinos, in the shadows.
“We cannot leave these families in limbo any longer,” said Rep. John Larson (D-1), whose district includes Hartford and its large Hispanic community.
At the same time, the state’s U.S. senators and members of the House, who like the president are Democrats, agreed that the ultimate solution to the immigration problem has to come from Congress where the House’s Republican leaders have said nothing will happen this year.
Rep. Rosa Delauro (D-3) said Wednesday that presidential action “is not a substitute for congressional action.”
The president is scheduled on Thursday evening to announce an executive order to expand temporary protections from deportation for many undocumented aliens, including thousands from Latin America who live in Connecticut. Essentially, this would serve as a moratorium on deportations for those who can pass a background check and satisfy other criteria, according to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
Blumenthal, who will attend a noon Friday rally for immigration reform at the Center for Latino Progress in Hartford, has advocated that the president “go big” on immigration reform and move quickly.
“You have the authority and the responsibility to institute crucial reforms today,” Blumenthal and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) urged in a letter sent Tuesday to the White House.
“If millions of immigrants step out of the shadows, work in legitimate jobs, and pay taxes, law enforcement will gain an immensely valuable advantage,” the two New England senators said.
Another call for the president to act swiftly on immigration came from Sen. Christopher Murphy. (D-CT). “With 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., it’s clear we need to act, and frankly, we needed to act years ago,” he said.
Most of this country’s illegals” are from Mexico and Central America. A relatively small portion, estimated at 120,000, live in Connecticut. However, this group is growing fast, having tripled since 2000.
Connecticut also has accepted several hundred Central Americans from the recent border surge. Predominantly young people and mothers with small children, these immigrants mostly live with relatives, primarily in Fairfield and New Haven counties, as they await legal proceedings to determine whether they can stay.
Some members of Congress have expressed frustration and even regret that the president needs to use his executive powers because of the Republican inaction in the House.
“I wish it weren’t necessary,” said Himes, whose district includes large Latino communities in Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford.
Himes said it has been over a year since 68 senators passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill, but House Republicans still won’t allow a vote on this issue.
Calling the nation’s immigration system “broken,” Larson said that if the Senate bill was put to a vote in the House, it would pass. “That’s why I signed on as a cosponsor of the House measure and joined in an effort to force the bill to the floor earlier this year,” he said.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-5) also cosponsored the unsuccessful effort last year to have the House version of the Senate bill be considered. At that time she said, in a press release that this would create a much fairer, more humane system that works for everyone.”
Delauro said, “We have been willing to compromise with Republicans every step of the way, but Speaker (John) Boehner (R-Ohio) has repeatedly refused to address this very serious issue.” she said.
Rep. Joseph Courtney (D-2) said the failure of House leadership to allow a vote or even take up the bipartisan Senate agreement, which he supports, has forced the president to act.
“Even with executive action,” said Courtney who represents much of eastern Connecticut, “the Congress still needs to work towards a lasting, bipartisan compromise.”
Murphy said the president’s decision is a temporary step that will be superseded if, and when, “Congress decides to act on the problems we are elected to resolve.”
Blumenthal called the current immigration system a mockery of the principle that state power be used rationally and humanely.
Himes said the president has the constitutional authority to protect the nation’s security and to prevent families from being “being torn apart.”
Delauro said she was glad President Obama is ready to take executive action, “as many presidents have done before him.”
Blumenthal noted that Obama had been able to avert deportation to as many as 1.4 million “Dreamers,” the children of illegal immigrants who came here with their families before the age of 16, through the administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Blumenthal said DACA “can serve as a blueprint for providing relief to other immigrants.”
Murphy said, “Fixing this system is good for our economy and good for our communities, but it’s also simply the right thing to do.”
The state’s junior senator added, “Robust immigration has made America the country it is today, and with the right reforms, our economy and the state of Connecticut will be stronger.”