Remember when I said I couldn’t help it?
On January 14, 2015 I penned a brief missive to Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WAffle) asking him to kindly explain why he voted No on a bill reigning in President Lawlessness’s executive over-reach on amnesty. The bill would also provide almost $40 billion to finance the Homeland Security Department through the rest of the budget year. It went like this:
Message Subject: Please Explain Your No Vote
Dear Rep. Kilmer:
I see that you voted against rolling back President Obama’s executive over-reach on immigration in the House vote of 14 January 2015. Please explain. Thank you.
Three brief sentences. Twenty-six words. I also said I’d let you know when I received a response. Well, I heard back from Congressman Kilmer’s office on February 9. Sort of.
I am particularly interested in the sentence I bold-faced in para. 9,412 about this being “the wrong place to inject a political debate on the President’s actions.” Ummm… what’s the right place for this debate?
Anyway, here’s Kilmer’s response. All 853 words. (My commentary follows. It’s brief. I promise.)
Thank you for contacting me about H.R. 240, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
First and foremost, I am very disappointed that despite a strong bipartisan vote for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate more than a year and half ago, we’ve seen a failure of the House to bring up any legislation that would address our broken immigration system.
We’ve long known that we need a modern immigration system that will strengthen enforcement on our borders and make it easier for employers to make sure that they’re hiring people who can legally work here. We also know that we need a smarter, better system of temporary immigration for industries that employ immigrants. And, finally, we need a realistic way to create a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants who have been here for years. With the expectation that they pay a fine and back taxes, pass a background check, learn English and go to the back of the line. There’s been a bipartisan support for these goals.
Despite the clear evidence that the system is broken and is in need of a serious, bipartisan effort to reform it, Congress once again dropped the ball.
With that background, President Obama announced a plan, in November of 2014, which will allow up to four million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years to apply for a program that protects them from deportation and allows those without a criminal record to legally work in the United States. Those protections would only apply to parents of US citizens and lawful US residents who have been in America five year or more, who have passed a background check and who commit to paying taxes. The President will also make changes to the immigration system that will extend protections to an additional one million undocumented immigrants.
The White House has publicly released a legal memo outlining its statutory and executive authority to exercise its discretion in determining who it will remove from the United States. The program would not change the lawful immigration status of the individuals and would not create a path to permanent residence or citizenship. The program could be terminated at any time, including by a future president. Individuals who apply would have to register, pass a background check, and pay a fee of approximately $465 per applicant.
The goal of these efforts was to focus on immigration enforcement and threats to homeland security – deploying more resources to replace illegal immigration, deporting felons rather than families, and holding accountable certain undocumented immigrants by requiring them to pass a background check and pay taxes.
On January 14, 2015, the House considered H.R. 240, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire in February. This is a bill that funds efforts to protect us from terrorism and cyber-attacks, efforts to train firefighters and other first responders, and to invest in border protection — which is especially important in our neck of the woods.
When this legislation was considered on the House floor, amendments were considered on the that would defund and nullify the President’s actions. Two of these amendments, championed by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Rep. Robert Aderholt (Ala.) would effectively end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other programs. While I opposed these amendments, they passed and were included in the bill.
To me, with the need for Congress to quickly reach an agreement and avoid a partial government shutdown, this is the wrong place to inject a political debate on the President’s actions. Whether or not one agrees with the executive actions, I think this was an incorrect way to consider an issue as serious as immigration reform. What’s more, I think it’s unwise to politicize the Homeland Security appropriations bill and threaten a shutdown of an agency that needs to protect American citizens. Despite my opposition, this legislation passed 236 – 191 and is now pending in the Senate.
There is no question that the administration’s proposal isn’t a long-term solution. The only way to permanently fix our broken system is for both parties in Congress to work together to address comprehensive immigration reform. We have complex immigration problems and we’re not going to solve them until people from both parties can come together and focus on solutions.
I’ve always said that the boat moves best when all oars are in the water rowing in the same direction, rather than the oars being used to beat each other over the head. There are members of Congress from both parties who see the value of working together, and I am hopeful that we can work to solve our nation’s challenges.
I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind as Congress debates immigration issues in the future. I encourage you to continue to share your views with me on this topic or any other issue. Thank you for reaching out. It is an honor to serve as your representative.
Member of Congress