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Reaction to Obama speech mostly partisan, with some bi-partisan agreement

On Thursday, President Obama announced actions he is taking to grant a reprieve from deportation to about 5 million immigrants in the U.S., whether they are here legally or illegally.

The president’s plan would allow all immigrants to apply for a three-year work permit if they can pass a background check, register with the government, submit biometric data, and establish they are eligible for relief.

Most members of Missouri’s congressional delegation felt that beyond the merits of the president’s plan, his use of executive privilege was uncalled for.

Missouri U.S. Senators, from different parties, found some common ground.

“Our immigration system is broken, and I support a comprehensive plan to fix it, but executive orders aren’t the way to do it,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill. “The system can only truly be fixed through legislation by congress.”

“On more than 20 occasions, President Obama said he does not have the authority to take the executive action that he announced tonight,” said Sen. Roy Blunt. “The president still does not possess that authority today. Missourians don’t want executive amnesty, they want President Obama to focus on growing jobs and to listen to their concerns. The president cannot ignore the law, and Congress will act in response to the president’s overreach.”

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4) said, “I am disappointed that President Obama has chosen to bypass Congress in his rush to implement immigration reform. Our Constitution requires that Congress write the laws and the President execute those laws. Americans are divided on how to address immigration reform. President Obama’s action can only harm efforts to bring Americans together to reach consensus on this important matter.”

Rep. Billy Long (MO-7) said Thursday’s immigration announcement shows Obama has given up on the legislative process.

“It is unconscionable President Obama took this divisive and unilateral action on immigration,” he says. “President Obama refused to enforce our nation’s immigration laws and now he thinks it is okay to give those who came to our country illegally a pass. We have a process in place for those who want to immigrate to our country. The process needs to be reformed, but, the Executive Branch does not get to unilaterally make this decision. The president has shown by his actions today he has given up on the legislative process and that is a shame. We have three separate but equal branches of government. The former constitutional law professor would be wise to remember that.”

“The people I represent want to see the border secured and our nation’s current immigration laws enforced,” Long continued. “Border enforcement should be and must be the first concrete step our nation takes when it comes to immigration reform. Any reform effort without border security first will not fix the problem.”

St. Louis suburban Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-2) wrote: “President Obama’s decision to unilaterally rewrite our immigration laws, for over five million unlawful immigrants, is a slap in the face to the American people who overwhelmingly rejected his failed agenda on Election Day. The American people want the President to work with Congress – not around them – on solutions that will strengthen our economy, increase upward mobility and restore the American Dream for generations to come.”

From northeast and central Missouri, Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-3) also criticized the president “overreach” and vowed to vote for strong immigration legislation in the months to come in congress.

“Today’s action by the president to unilaterally grant amnesty to millions of undocumented illegal immigrants in the United States is not only unconstitutional but also a complete overreach by this administration. The president has completely circumvented Congress with this executive action. Just last year, the president was quoted saying, “I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.” He should follow his own words and realize that immigration reform is much too complex and too important to not properly go through the legislative process. Rather than issuing these lawless executive actions, the president should complete the border fence that Congress previously passed into law, increase enforcement against tax and welfare fraud by illegal immigrants, and actually follow through with existing law instead of a “catch-and-release” approach. House Republicans have been holding discussions regarding how to address this issue and I am confident that action will be taken soon.”

And from northwest Missouri, Congressman Sam Graves (MO-6) said real immigration reform can only come from congress.

“The actions outlined by the President tonight are another display of his blatant disregard for our constitutional system, the American people, and all those who went through the extensive process of becoming citizens the correct way,” said Graves.  “Amnesty rewards those who have cheated the system and punishes those who played by the rules and went through the legal immigration process.  I strongly oppose this amnesty order and the President’s attempt to not only bypass the legislative process, but the American people,” he continued.“We are a nation of laws and no one is above the rule of law – not this President or any President.”

The state’s newest member of congress, Congressman Jason Smith (MO-8) representing southeast and south central Missouri said U.S. borders must be secured before immigration reform can be discussed.

“The American people have spoken, but instead of letting the new Congress do its job, President Obama is once again legislating through executive action. He has said 22 times that executive action on immigration was outside the scope of his authority, and we are not going to stand by and watch this president shred the Constitution,” said Smith. “Since I was first elected, I have never wavered in my belief that we are a nation of laws and any immigration reform must first secure the border.”

But, President Obama did have supporters among the Missouri delegation. Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver said congressional inaction forced the president to take unilateral action.

“Our immigration system is broken and the American people overwhelmingly support reform, but our partisan politics have precluded progress in Congress. The President’s announcement provides relief to millions of hard-working, law-abiding immigrant families across the nation, secures our borders, and prioritizes enforcement against the worst criminals and threats against national security,” said Cleaver in  a post on his Facebook site. “I support President Obama’s #ImmigrationAction. It’s legal, it’s needed, and it’s the right thing to do.”

And First District Congressman William Lacy Clay echoed the sentiment that congressional Republicans gave the president little choice.

“I strongly support President Obama’s courageous and historic executive actions to fix elements of our long-broken immigration system that fall under his direct constitutional authority. The President was forced to act after House Republicans refused to allow debate or a vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill which passed the U.S. Senate with a huge bipartisan majority over 500 days ago. Fundamental immigration reform is the single smartest thing that we could do to spur economic growth. It is also a test of our humanity. That’s why it is supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the AFL-CIO, the U.S. Chambers of Commerce and hundreds of other faith-based, labor and business groups. The President’s wise executive actions are in the best tradition of former presidents who have taken similar steps. These executive orders will elevate the millions who till our fields, cook our meals, clean our offices and care for our loved ones towards a path of legal status, giving them an opportunity to pay their fair share and finally live free from fear.”

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