Local leaders react to immigration reform


Several local community members gathered to watch the President's address at La Casa de Amistad.

"We think this will affect thousands of families in this community," says La Casa Executive Director Sam Centellas. "Most people don't know how many people are undocumented in this community. You probably see them daily."

At least a dozen showed up at La Casa to show their support for immigration reform. Common Council President Oliver Davis says the issue deeply impacts our area, specifically the sixth district.

"We, in South Bend, are a city of immigrants," says Davis.

Jesusa Rivera was one who felt tonight's speech was a step in the right direction.

"It's a blessing tonight for those five million," says Rivera. "But still we're looking at six million without."

Under Obama's executive order, those who have been in the United States at least five years, may apply to live lawfully in the United States and work here, too.

"This executive order will allow people to at least stay here lawfully, work lawfully, pay their taxes, and be held accountable," says Attorney Rodolfo Monterrosa, Jr.

Those seeking citizenship must still go through several steps towards citizenship, but could be protected by a temporary order that will protect them from deportation.

"People are going to be able to step out from the shadows," says Monterrosa, Jr.

Centellas felt President Obama's executive order encompassed what an American immigrant means.

"We're talking about law abiding, looking for an education, taking care of their families," says Centellas. "Those are the people he wants to reward and help."

Monterrosa agrees.

"He reminded us that all of us have an immigation story to tell," says Monterrosa. "I believe that's why I'm going to remember this day forever."

More reactions

The following statement was issued by Indiana Governor Mike Pence:

"Tonight the President announced his plan to by-pass Congress by issuing an executive order changing American immigration laws. While reasonable people can differ on ways to improve our nation's broken immigration system, the President's unilateral action is an unacceptable end run around the democratic process and must be reversed. The proper place to debate immigration policy is through the legislative process defined in our Constitution. The State of Indiana will carefully evaluate the details of the Executive Order and take any available legal actions necessary to restore the rule of law and proper balance to our constitutional system of government."

This statement was issued by Senator Joe Donnelly:

"It is clear the immigration system in this country is broken, and only Congress has the ability to change the law to fix it. The Senate passed bipartisan immigration reform last summer with my support, though we are still waiting on the House to debate this issue. I am as frustrated as anyone that Congress is not doing its job, but the President shouldn't make such significant policy changes on his own."

The following comes from Congresswoman Jackie Walorski:

"At a time when Americans want Washington to work together, I'm disappointed that instead of working with Congress to find real solutions, the president has decided to abuse his executive powers, break the law and ignore the Constitution at the expense of resolving a national crisis."This week, I joined with the Republican Women's Policy Committee and sent a letter to President Obama urging him to abandon any unconstitutional executive actions on immigration reform and instead work with Congress and the people of this great nation."There is no question that the current immigration system is broken and there is a growing need for reform, but denying members of Congress and the American people an opportunity to offer any input only jeopardizes the chance of finding real, workable solutions."

This statement was released by the office of Senator Dan Coats:

"The Constitutional role of a U.S. President is to faithfully execute the law, not alter or ignore it as he sees fit," said Coats. "President Obama's actions to change existing law and grant amnesty via executive order exceed his Constitutional authority, ignore the wishes of the American people and contradict his past assertions that only Congress can set immigration policy."

The following statement comes from the office of Congressman Fred Upton:

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Representative Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, issued the following statement in response to the President's executive action on immigration. During the past two years, Upton has helped lead an effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to get bipartisan immigration reform legislation enacted.

"As I've long said, our current immigration system is broken and needs bipartisan reform. That means all sides working together - Democrats and Republicans, the White House and Congress - to get the job done," Upton said. "The President's 'go it alone' approach drives a political wedge into ongoing reform efforts and recklessly disregards our nation's lawmaking process. And meanwhile, Michigan farmers, employers, law enforcement, and families will continue to live and work under a cloud of uncertainty as our laws are decided at the whim of a lame-duck White House. It's time for real, thoughtful solutions, not more partisan maneuvering."

In October, Upton welcomed his Florida colleague and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Conference Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart to Kalamazoo, Mich., to share their ongoing immigration reform efforts in Congress, learn of the community's concerns, and encourage a constructive local dialogue on the issue. Upton and Diaz-Balart hosted an immigration roundtable discussion with local agriculture and business leaders at Southwest Michigan First and met with community members at the Dia de los Muertos celebration at St. Joseph Catholic Church hosted by the Hispanic American Council of Kalamazoo.

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