State Lawmakers Anxiously Await Obama's Immigration Move

Jul 11, 2014

Now that immigration reform has essentially been pulled from the docket during this legislative session Virginia lawmakers are bracing for the impact on the state's economy - as some lawmakers brace for what executive actions President Obama prepares to take.  


Immigration reform is effectively dead ahead of November's elections, so the president announced he's exploring all the actions he can take from the Oval Office. While the partisan sniping over which party is to blame for its collapse continues, Virginia policymakers are now dealing with the fallout. Northern Virginia Democratic Congressman says he's expecting an influx of calls. 

"I would say that the single big constituent demand in my office in the last six years is immigration. It's family re-unification. It's visas, it's trying to get family members over for some big celebration, or death or an illness. You see the good bad and the ugly of the current system. It's not a very humane system, it's not even always a just system."

In Northern Virginia, the biggest need for the business community is high skilled visas. Democratic Congressman Jim Moran represents Alexandria – just outside of Washington. He says he's expecting businesses in his region to lose a competitive edge. 

“And as a result we’re going to lose a lot of people that we desperately need. They’re going to go to Canada. They’re going to go to Europe. They’re particularly going to go to Asia, but they’re not going to go to the United States and they’re, they’re terribly valuable.”

It's not just being felt in Democratic enclaves. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine is a Democrat, yes, but he represents the entire state. He says the lack of immigration reform will be felt from the Eastern Shore to the commonwealth's agriculture and forestry sectors. 

“Our ag –it’s ag and watermen, you know, and specialty visas. And it’s local communities dealing with education challenges, and educators with the Dreamers. I mean, you hear it from all angles. The support for reform is – has a – just a broad group of stakeholders in Virginia.”

But what is immigration reform?  

"I think the word reform, probably has more meanings to more people than perhaps any word in the American lexicon right now."  

That's Virginia Republican Scott Rigell. He supports immigration reform, but for him and others in the GOP that starts with stopping the flow of people crossing into the US. 

"My general guiding principal here is that we want to make it easier for someone to come here legally. We are a nation of immigrants. This is our heritage, this is in our DNA, we celebrate it."

And Virginia Republican Congressman Randy Forbes says the failure of any action on immigration reform means the administration will continue to allow undocumented workers to stay in the country, many whom he claims are bad apples. 

“They’re taking their time away and literally releasing criminals on the street and people who are dangerous to the country.”

And Forbes says he doesn't see the administration reforming its policies any time soon, especially when it comes to trying to change the system from the White House.  

“I think when you see that and then you see the President saying instead of recognizing he’s made some mistakes and changing that that he’s essentially doubling down and throwing the rule of law out the window, I think it concerns not just members of Congress, but people across the country.”

The president’s announcement that he's going around Congress now that legislative efforts have halted isn't helping bridge the gulf on Capitol Hill.  Here's Virginia Republican Representative Morgan Griffith. 

“The president is wrong to bypass Congress. We’re the legislative branch. He’s the head of the executive branch, and obviously there’s supposed to be various jobs by various people.”

Griffith says it also complicates the president's emergency request of four billion dollars to tackle the crisis of unaccompanied minors flowing into Texas. 

“Well it’s a heck of a lot of money for something to solve a problem he created and his administration created, and there have to be less expensive ways to get these children back to their home countries.”

Even with all the hyper partisanship in Washington many reform advocates saw this Congress as their best chance to change the nation’s immigration policies in decades. The window seems to have closed and it’s left a bad taste on both sides of the political divide.