Talk­ing im­mi­gra­tion

S.E. Pa. con­gres­sional can­di­dates of­fer their views on im­mi­gra­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Lu­cas Rodgers lrodgers@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Lu­casMRodgers on Twit­ter

Im­mi­gra­tion has long been a con­tentious is­sue in the United States, with vary­ing views on how le­gal im­mi­gra­tion should be han­dled, how il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion could be re­duced, and whether un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants should be al­lowed to re­main in the coun­try or be de­ported. The de­bate on im­mi­gra­tion has be­come even more in­tense this elec­tion sea­son, as the two ma­jor par­ties’ pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees, Democrat Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump, have out­lined two starkly dif­fer­ent plans for im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

Clin­ton sup­ports com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form with a path­way to full and equal cit­i­zen­ship, ac­cord­ing to her cam­paign web­site. She has

Not all His­pan­ics are im­mi­grants and not all im­mi­grants are His­pan­ics. U.S. Cen­sus fig­ures

pledged to de­fend Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions – DACA (De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals) and DAPA (De­ferred Ac­tion for Par­ents of Amer­i­cans and Law­ful Per­ma­nent Res­i­dents) – which were in­tended to grant de­ferred ac­tion sta­tus to about 5 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, but were sus­pended af­ter a fed­eral judge is­sued a tem­po­rary in­junc­tion against them in Fe­bru­ary 2015. Clin­ton also wants to pro­mote nat­u­ral­iza­tion of im­mi­grants, en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws hu­manely, end fam­ily de­ten­tion and close pri­vate im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ters, and ex­pand ac­cess to af­ford­able health care to all fam­i­lies, re­gard­less of im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

Trump sup­ports an im­mi­gra­tion plan that would im­prove jobs, wages and se­cu­rity for all Amer­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to his cam­paign web­site. Some of Trump’s pro­posed im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies in­clude: con­struct­ing a wall across Amer­ica’s en­tire south­ern bor­der, which Mex­ico must pay for; end­ing birthright cit­i­zen­ship; de­fund­ing sanc­tu­ary cities; and tripling the num­ber of U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE) of­fi­cers from 5,000 to 15,000. Trump pre­vi­ously said that as pres­i­dent he would de­port the es­ti­mated 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants in the U.S., as well as im­ple­ment a tem­po­rary ban on Mus­lims im­mi­grat­ing to the U.S., but he has since di­aled back on those poli­cies, and in­stead pro­posed a pol­icy of “ex­treme vet­ting” to de­ter­mine whether or not po­ten­tial im­mi­grants’ be­liefs align with Amer­i­can val­ues.

While Trump and Clin­ton each have dif­fer­ent pol­icy pro­pos­als for im­mi­gra­tion re­form, nei­ther of them will be able to ef­fec­tively im­ple­ment these poli­cies with­out some co­op­er­a­tion from Congress. The con­gres­sional can­di­dates in south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia also have dif­fer­ing views on im­mi­gra­tion, and not all of them are in line with their par­ties’ pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees. Dig­i­tal First Me­dia reached out to con­gres­sional can­di­dates in the Philadel­phia re­gion to in­quire about their views on im­mi­gra­tion and whether or not they sup­port any of the im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies pro­posed by any of the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. In Mont­gomery, Delaware and Chester coun­ties, the im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion has been drop­ping, and it has also been drop­ping as a per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Cen­sus data.

U.S. Se­nate Can­di­dates’ Views

Penn­syl­va­nia’s can­di­dates for U.S. Se­nate all seem to agree that Amer­ica’s cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem needs to be re­formed, but they have dif­fer­ent ideas about what changes should be made.

In­cum­bent Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., of Up­per Mil­ford, Le­high County, lauded Amer­ica’s his­tory of le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, but crit­i­cized as­pects of the present state of im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

“Amer­ica has long ben­e­fited from le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and the con­tri­bu­tions of those who have come to this coun­try will­ing to work hard and seek a bet­ter life,” Toomey said. “Al­most all Amer­i­cans have some con­nec­tion to our im­mi­grant his­tory. In fact, my own grand­par­ents em­i­grated here from Ire­land.

“Un­for­tu­nately, our coun­try’s im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem to­day is fun­da­men­tally bro­ken. Our bor­ders are not se­cure, and our im­mi­gra­tion laws are be­ing bro­ken by both em­ploy­ers try­ing to skirt the rules and those who seek to come here il­le­gally. That is why I have sup­ported ef­forts to strengthen bor­der se­cu­rity, en­sure that our im­mi­gra­tion laws are en­forced, and stop the out­ra­geous prac­tice of sanc­tu­ary cities that un­der­mine our laws.”

Katie McGinty, a Democrat from Wayne, Chester County, who is run­ning against Toomey, said she sup­ports com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form, and she be­lieves Toomey has not ad­e­quately ad­dressed the is­sue.

“I would have proudly voted in fa­vor of the 2013 com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form bill that was ne­go­ti­ated by mem­bers of both par­ties, in­clud­ing Repub­li­can sen­a­tors (John) McCain, (Lind­sey) Gra­ham and (Jeff) Flake,” McGinty said. “Com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form will be a boost for our econ­omy, lower the deficit, and take im­por­tant steps to en­sure our bor­der is se­cure.

“On the other hand, Pat Toomey has al­ready shown that he is not se­ri­ous about find­ing so­lu­tions to fix our bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem and se­cure the bor­der.

“Not only did Toomey op­pose the bi­par­ti­san com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form bill in 2013 – which would’ve dou­bled the num­ber of bor­der pa­trol agents – but to­day he can­not even find the courage needed to dis­avow Don­ald Trump.”

Toomey has not en­dorsed any of the cur­rent pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, nor said who he plans to vote for. Ted Kwong, a cam­paign spokesman for Toomey, said McGinty’s “far-left agenda de­fies all com­mon sense.”

“McGinty de­fends ex­treme sanc­tu­ary cities like Philadel­phia that even the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and (for­mer Gov.) Ed Ren­dell op­pose …” Kwong said. “And McGinty’s im­mi­gra­tion plan would even give cit­i­zen­ship to il­le­gal im­mi­grants, mak­ing them el­i­gi­ble for wel­fare ben­e­fits.”

Ac­cord­ing to a Philadel­phia In­quirer ar­ti­cle from July, McGinty has called for in­creased com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween Philadel­phia po­lice and fed­eral law en­force­ment agen­cies, but she did not out­right re­ject Philadel­phia Mayor Jim Ken­ney’s de­ci­sion to keep Philadel­phia’s sanc­tu­ary city pol­icy in place.

Ed­ward Clif­ford III of Marple, Delaware County, a Lib­er­tar­ian can­di­date in the U.S. Se­nate race, said he be­lieves Amer­ica needs im­mi­gra­tion re­form, and that wel­fare is­sues are also tied to im­mi­gra­tion is­sues.

“We need to abol­ish the wel­fare state and re­turn to the United States as a place where all peo­ple could come and live and try to make a bet­ter life for them­selves,” Clif­ford said. “Congress can re­move the fed­eral en­ti­tle­ments which are hand­outs to peo­ple to avoid the is­sues which come with wel­fare abuse.” Clif­ford said he is op­posed to build­ing walls and per­pet­u­at­ing sanc­tu­ary cities.

Lib­er­tar­ian pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Gary John­son is op­posed to build­ing a bor­der wall or sim­ply of­fer­ing amnesty to un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, but he be­lieves the process for le­gal im­mi­gra­tion should be made sim­pler and more ef­fi­cient, and that there should be a more ef­fi­cient sys­tem of pro­vid­ing work visas, con­duct­ing back­ground checks, and in­cen­tiviz­ing non-cit­i­zens to pay their taxes, ob­tain proof of em­ploy­ment, and oth­er­wise as­sim­i­late with Amer­ica’s di­verse so­ci­ety, ac­cord­ing to his cam­paign web­site.

U.S. House Can­di­dates’ Views

South­east­ern Penn­syl­va­ni­ans run­ning to serve in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives each have dif­fer­ent ideas on how to ad­dress im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

U.S. Rep. Pat Mee­han, R-7, of Chadds Ford, Delaware County, said he sup­ports le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, but Amer­ica’s bor­ders must be se­cure.

“Our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem is bro­ken,” Mee­han said. “Fix­ing it starts with securing our bor­der. Since com­ing to Congress I have worked with my col­leagues to in­crease fund­ing for bor­der se­cu­rity to de­ter and pre­vent in­di­vid­u­als from com­ing into our coun­try il­le­gally.

“We are a na­tion of im­mi­grants, and im­mi­grants of all her­itage have a rich and proud tra­di­tion of con­tri­bu­tion to Amer­i­can so­ci­ety. But we are also a na­tion of laws, and those laws need to be re­spected and en­forced. We need to en­sure we have a work­ing im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, and that means an ef­fec­tive sys­tem to en­sure le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and to en­force our bor­ders – not amnesty that en­cour­ages fu­ture law­break­ing. A na­tion that can­not de­fend its own bor­ders will not long be a na­tion.”

Mary Ellen Balchu­nis of Haver­ford, Delaware County, the Demo­cratic can­di­date in the 7th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, said she sup­ports a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants.

“We must cre­ate a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship that pulls un­doc­u­mented work­ers out of hid­ing,” Balchu­nis said. “In our cur­rent sys­tem un­doc­u­mented la­bor is ex­ploited to un­der­cut wages and safety reg­u­la­tions, while plac­ing an in­creased bur­den on our so­cial ser­vices, schools and law en­force­ment. To make things worse, our cur­rent frame­work places fam­i­lies into heart­break­ing dilem­mas as they choose be­tween com­ply­ing with the law and keep­ing their fam­i­lies in­tact.

“When in Congress, I will pri­or­i­tize fam­i­lies, fix the fam­ily visa back­log, strengthen bor­der se­cu­rity and the en­force­ment of ex­pired visas, end the three­year and 10-year bars, close pri­vate im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ters, and sup­port im­mi­grant in­te­gra­tion pro­grams. For these rea­sons I sup­port Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pro­pos­als and hope to work with her in the House to make them a re­al­ity.”

The 7th Dis­trict en­com­passes por­tions of Berks, Chester, Delaware, Mont­gomery and Lan­caster coun­ties.

U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6, of West Goshen, Chester County, said the coun­try needs im­mi­gra­tion re­form, and there are sev­eral steps Congress can take to ad­dress this is­sue.

“The U.S. was founded by im­mi­grants and le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is an im­por­tant as­pect of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety,” Costello said. “How­ever, our cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem is bro­ken. We must work to re­place the cur­rent patch­work of laws and uni­lat­eral reg­u­la­tions with an ef­fec­tive and func­tional sys­tem that ad­dresses the mod­ern se­cu­rity chal­lenges posed at our bor­ders and en­cour­ages in­di­vid­u­als who wish to come to the U.S. legally to do so in a fair, ef­fec­tive, and hu­mane man­ner.

“First and fore­most, we must se­cure our bor­ders. By tak­ing a step-by-step ap­proach to gain op­er­a­tional con­trol of our bor­ders and im­ple­ment ef­fec­tive en­force­ment mech­a­nisms to ver­ify iden­tity, pre­vent fraud, and ad­dress visa over­stays, Congress can re­form our bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem and strengthen our na­tional se­cu­rity.

“Like­wise, Congress can re­form le­gal, em­ploy­ment­based im­mi­gra­tion pro­grams. Agri­cul­tural guest­worker pro­grams should be up­dated to meet cur­rent eco­nomic needs. Fur­ther, green card and visa al­lo­ca­tions should re­flect the de­mand of Amer­i­can em­ploy­ers and the grow­ing num­ber of tal­ented for­eign in­di­vid­u­als who wish to pur­sue high-skilled ca­reers and spur Amer­i­can eco­nomic growth.” When asked if he sup­ports any of the im­mi­gra­tion plans pro­posed by any of the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, Costello said he val­ues re­sults ahead of rhetoric.

Mike Par­rish of Wil­lis­town, Chester County, a Democrat run­ning against Costello in the 6th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, said Amer­ica needs com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form, and leg­is­la­tion to en­act it is long over­due.

“Par­ti­san bick­er­ing in Congress has stalled these ef­forts to the detri­ment of ev­ery­one,” Par­rish said. “Congress needs to take ac­tion to pass re­spon­si­ble com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form. I sup­port com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form as an im­por­tant pol­icy pri­or­ity. Re­form is im­per­a­tive not just to im­mi­grants and their fam­i­lies, it is im­por­tant to na­tional se­cu­rity and the U.S. econ­omy. In 2013, im­mi­grants con­trib­uted $1.3 tril­lion to GDP and helped to raise the stan­dard of liv­ing for all Amer­i­cans.

“I sup­port com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form that in­cludes a path to cit­i­zen­ship, while mak­ing sure that we pro­tect U.S. work­ers and stop abuses of the sys­tem. Abuse of pro­grams like H1B visas al­low em­ploy­ers to ex­ploit for­eign work­ers, while tak­ing away highly skilled, fam­ily sus­tain­ing jobs from Amer­i­can work­ers. In­ac­tion on the part of Congress and con­tin­ued abuse of the sys­tem must end.”

In re­sponse to a ques­tion about whether or not he sup­ports any of the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates’ im­mi­gra­tion plans, Par­rish said: “It is not Congress’ job to blindly fol­low the pres­i­dent’s lead on any im­por­tant is­sue. Don­ald Trump’s plan to ad­dress im­mi­gra­tion by build­ing a wall and de­port­ing mil­lions of peo­ple is dis­as­trous and fool­ish. Hil­lary Clin­ton’s plan is more rea­son­able and re­spon­si­ble. In Congress, I will work in a bi­par­ti­san way to craft and pass com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form that makes sense and re­spects our val­ues as a na­tion of im­mi­grants, while mak­ing sure that we re­spon­si­bly man­age growth and keep our na­tion se­cure.”

The 6th Dis­trict is com­posed of por­tions of Berks, Chester, Le­banon and Mont­gomery coun­ties.

Brian Fitz­patrick, of Le­vit­town, Bucks County, the Repub­li­can can­di­date for the 8th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, said he sup­ports re­form­ing Amer­ica’s im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem and securing the bor­der.

“As a for­mer FBI agent who sup­ported coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts, I know first­hand the threats our na­tion faces from our bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem,” Fitz­patrick said. “Pro­tect­ing our bor­der is an im­por­tant part of in­creas­ing our na­tional se­cu­rity. Congress must act to se­cure the bor­der through a phys­i­cal bar­rier, aerial sur­veil­lance, en­hanced hu­man in­tel­li­gence pro­gram, and the for­ma­tion of a fed­eral agent/Na­tional Guard task force. Equally im­por­tant, our le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem needs to be re­formed to pro­vide bet­ter screen­ings for those com­ing through the ‘front door’ to en­sure that we can con­tinue to be a na­tion that wel­comes all seek­ing free­dom and op­por­tu­nity.”

Brian Fitz­patrick’s brother, Mike Fitz­patrick, the Repub­li­can con­gress­man who cur­rently rep­re­sents the 8th Dis­trict, is not seek­ing re-elec­tion. State Rep. Steve San­tar­siero, D-31, of Lower Make­field, Bucks County, the Demo­cratic can­di­date in the 8th Dis­trict race, did not re­spond to Dig­i­tal First Me­dia’s re­quest for com­ment. The 8th Dis­trict in­cludes all of Bucks County and part of Mont­gomery County.

U.S. Rep. Bren­dan Boyle, D-13, of Philadel­phia, said he be­lieves the coun­try needs im­mi­gra­tion re­form, but he crit­i­cized Trump’s ap­proach.

“Congress needs to act com­pre­hen­sively on im­mi­gra­tion re­form to fix our bro­ken sys­tem,” Boyle said. Re­fer­ring to a 2013 bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion re­form bill passed in the U.S. Se­nate 7030, he said, “the House Repub­li­can lead­er­ship failed to

act on that bi­par­ti­san com­pro­mise,” not even al­low­ing a vote.

“Both sides of the aisle need to come to­gether and act to make our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem more ef­fi­cient, to strengthen our bor­ders, to ver­ify that em­ploy­ers are hir­ing em­ploy­ees le­gal to work in the United States and to pro­vide a path­way for un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants to have a le­gal way to earn cit­i­zen­ship,” he said.

Boyle said he is “deeply trou­bled by the an­gry rhetoric of Don­ald Trump,” which, he said “is not in keep­ing with the spirit of Amer­ica.”

“We are a na­tion of im­mi­grants,” he said, not­ing his fa­ther and all four grand­par­ents were born in Ire­land. De­spite that, “at some point in his­tory it seems that al­most ev­ery im­mi­grant group was tar­geted and scape­goated,” he said. “We need to over­come prej­u­dice and big­otry.”

Boyle is run­ning un­op­posed in the 13th Dis­trict, which con­sists of parts of Philadel­phia and Mont­gomery County.

Im­mi­gra­tion Lawyer Weighs In

The pres­i­den­tial and con­gres­sional can­di­dates have var­i­ous pol­icy pre­scrip­tions for im­mi­gra­tion re­form, but the pri­mary fo­cus of im­mi­gra­tion is­sues ul­ti­mately comes down to en­force­ment, ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal lawyer.

Im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney Son­dra Miller-Wein, chair of the Philadel­phia Chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion, said the im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies pro­posed by the two ma­jor pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates should be viewed against the back­drop of the last 20 to 30 years, which

largely fo­cused on en­force­ment.

“Congress has not made any ma­jor im­prove­ments to our na­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion laws since 1986, and the last at­tempt at il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion re­form was in 1997,” said Miller-Wein, whose Im­mi­gra­tion Law Op­tions firm has of­fices in Am­bler and Flour­town in Mont­gomery County. “Since then, the U.S. has fo­cused al­most ex­clu­sively on en­force­ment, spent more than $241 bil­lion and more than dou­bled its bor­der pa­trol and ICE agents since 2003. Over the last 10 years, ICE has de­ported nearly 3.5 mil­lion peo­ple, av­er­ag­ing 346,000 per year.”

Trump’s pro­posal to build a wall be­tween the U.S. and Mex­ico “seems sim­ply im­prac­ti­cal” and his pro­posed “manda­tory de­por­ta­tion of all ‘crim­i­nal’ aliens chal­lenges the no­tion of due process,” she said.


A sup­porter of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump holds up his shirt, which bears the Trump slo­gan “Build a Wall,” fol­low­ing a rally for Trump Aug. 30 in Everett, Wash.


Car­men Vasat­uro of Philadel­phia holds a sign show­ing his sup­port of Don­ald Trump’s plan to build a wall along Amer­ica’s south­ern bor­der, dur­ing Trump’s visit to the As­ton Com­mu­nity Cen­ter Tues­day night.


“Build the wall” has been a pop­u­lar chant, and this Don­ald Trump sup­porter had it writ­ten across his chest.

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