Emotions ran high as immigrant-rights activists, families, elected officials and others in Florida and across the country reacted to President Barack Obama’s televised announcement on immigration reform. Here are some voices from all sides of the debate over immigration.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida
“We need immigration reform. But the right way to do it is to first bring illegal immigration under control by securing the borders and enforcing the laws, then modernizing our legal immigration system. After we do these things, we will eventually have to deal with those here illegally in a reasonable but responsible way. The President’s actions now make all of this harder and are unfair to people in our immigration system who are doing things the right way.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida
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“We passed a comprehensive and bipartisan immigration bill by an overwhelming margin last year in the Senate. But you just can’t get some of the reactionaries in the House of Representatives to move. So I think the president should have done this. He certainly has the legal authority. The bottom line is this: We need to act fairly toward our people and also to help keep the economy moving.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston
“I applaud the executive action taken today by President Obama on immigration, using his lawful authority to provide compassion and certainty to millions of our fellow neighbors, family, and friends. For too long, our broken immigration system has pushed our fellow brothers and sisters into the shadows and outside of the system. Because of today’s action, more Florida families will no longer have to live in fear of being separated, more parents will remain with their children, and more young Floridians, many who have known no other country than ours, will get to continue their pursuit of the American dream.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (joint statement)
“As President Obama has stated, ‘I am President of the United States, not the Emperor of the United States.’ He further stated that acting unilaterally is ‘ignoring the law in a way that I believe would be very difficult to defend legally.’ Now, the President says he has the authority to stop deportations. It begs the question — why did President Obama deport more than two million people, dividing families, when according to him, it could have been avoided? While we agree on the merits of some of the announced measures, the President’s executive order makes it more difficult to pass a commonsense solution to our country’s broken immigration system. We continue to believe that we must find a bipartisan, legislative solution to strengthen our borders, offer a permanent and humane solution to those living in the shadows, adhere to the rule of law, modernize our antiquated visa system, and bolster the economy. None of this is accomplished by the President’s executive order.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami
“The President’s announcement today represents an important step in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. It will help keep families together, grow the American economy, and protect our national security. Because of his actions, millions will no longer have to live in fear, and we can focus our attention and our resources on those who wish to do our nation harm, rather than those simply chasing the American dream. As far reaching as his actions are however, they are not enough. Executive action is a big help, but it is Congress’s responsibility to fix our broken immigration system. I hope the President’s actions will compel them to do so.”
Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski
“Two weeks ago, I was on the steps of the Freedom Tower calling for [President Obama] to do whatever he can within his legal authority to bring relief to at least some of the 11 million immigrants that are in this country. Congress still has to act and do comprehensive immigration reform. There is no reason why this should stop Congress in doing that. Right now, people live in fear of a knock on their door that could take them away from their families. They are afraid of an immigration raid at their workplace and that’s just not American.”
National Council of La Raza President and CEO Janet Murguía
“This action is a victory for the president, a victory for millions of American families and workers, a victory for our country, and a victory for common sense. Executive action will improve our security by getting people living in the shadows to come forward and go through criminal background checks. It will bolster our economy so those who are working will do so legally in a way that increases tax contributions for the nation and prevents bad employers from pitting them against U.S.-citizen workers. And it will bring greater stability to millions of families — which include U.S. citizens and legal residents — as well as the communities in which they live.”
American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp
“President Obama’s Executive Order is like a royal decree giving legal status to millions of people who came here and reside here illegally. The president is showing utter contempt for the American voter, the Constitution, the separation of powers and all those who follow the law. It is appalling that a president of the United States, after having suffered a humiliating defeat in the midterm elections and getting a clear vote of no confidence, would give the voters a single-finger salute of contempt.”