West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller said they support changes to the country’s immigration system, but will wait to review the full details of proposed bills before making a deciding how to vote on the issue.
But Congressman Nick Rahall, a Democrat, is echoing some House Republicans’ argument that undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to attain legal citizenship.
Luis Arauza Martinez, right, formerly of Mexico, sings the Star Spangled Banner during Naturalization Ceremonies Monday at the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse in Charleston. Bob Wojcieszak/Daliy Mail
UPDATE (1:59 p.m.) Congresswoman Shelley Moore-Capito says she supports providing a fair and efficient system for legal immigrants, but said she would not support a law that gives illegal immigrants opportunities not available to those who come to this country legally.
Yesterday, I covered a naturalization ceremony at the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse. After the ceremony was completed, I met a 40-year-old coal miner named David Gonzalez. From the story:
Gonzalez, of Beckley, came to the United States from Mexico when he was 6 years old. He has spent the last 20 years paying lawyers to work through the difficult legal maze of the U.S. immigration system.
All the while, Gonzalez spent thousands of dollars getting his visa renewed every few years to avoid being deported to a country he barely remembers.
He smiled widely following Monday’s naturalization ceremony. He compared the experience to getting married.
“You’re all nervous but when you get it done, it’s great,” he said. “It took me forever, but I finally got it done.”
While attaining U.S. citizenship was a laborious process for Gonzalez, President Barack Obama and some members of Congress are working to make the immigration process much easier in the future. Again, from my story:
A bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators last week released a new plan for immigration reform that included creating a path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, along with provisions that would tighten border security.
President Barack Obama traveled to Nevada last week to tout his three-pronged approach to immigration reform: providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, reforming the current legal immigration process and stricter enforcement of immigration laws.
I contacted Sen. Manchin and Sen. Rockefeller’s offices yesterday, asking how they feel about the “Group of Eight’s” proposals for immigration reform. Rockefeller said he supports efforts to prevent illegal immigration, improve border security and “establish an immigration system that benefits all Americans.”
“That means developing solutions that strengthen our economy, protect jobs for American citizens, and enable immigrants who are making meaningful contributions an opportunity to continue to give back to their communities. Those are the American values that should be reflected in any new bill,” he said in an emailed statement.
Manchin (who is becoming known for his desire to get Republicans and Democrats to play nice) said he is encouraged that a bipartisan group of senators has come together to find a “commonsense solution” to problems with our “broken immigration system.”
“However, I am waiting to review the details of the reform recommendations that were outlined this week as well as the President’s proposal to see if this is something I can support,” Manchin said.
Rockefeller also said he would keep an open mind and “review all proposals carefully and thoughtfully.”
Congressman Nick Rahall took a hard stance against the “Group of Eight” and President Obama’s proposals for a path to citizenship for immigrants who came to the United States illegally.
“I am opposed to amnesty for illegal immigration. We should not reward illegal behavior,” he said in an emailed statement. “Our Nation and State has a rich and proud history of immigration. But, past generations of immigrants had to abide by the law, and so should the current generation of immigrants. The law should apply equally and fairly to everyone.”
Rahall said he supports efforts to tighten border security.
“We are sending the wrong message abroad if we keep waiving the penalties for breaking our immigration laws,” he wrote.
That’s a stance traditionally associated with House Republicans. Politico reports that, after the group of senators released its recommendations last week, former House Judiciary chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) put out a statement denouncing it:
“No one should be surprised that individuals who have supported amnesty in the past still support amnesty,” he said. “When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration. By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”
Congresswoman Shelley Moore-Capito’s stance on the matter is a bit less straightforward. She said securing the United States’ borders is “the most important part” of any new immigration legislation. She said she also supports a “fair and efficient” system for individuals who enter the country legally.
While she did not expressly condemn proposed “amnesty” programs for undocumented immigrants, she said she does not “support efforts to provide a legal status to illegal immigrants that is not available to those who seek to enter our country legally.”
“There must be consequences for those who ignore our laws by coming to this country illegally,” she wrote in an emailed statement.