Maine Delegation Has Mixed Response to President's Immigration Order
The president's decision to act unilaterally on immigration Thursday night - and to spare nearly 5 million undocumented people in the U.S. from deportation - is not sitting well with Maine's two U.S. Senators.
Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King say that, while they support the president's "felons, not families" approach to deportation, they remain concerned about the process he is using - and its potential for creating a partisan stalemate in a new Republican Congress.
The president's plan is mainly directed at people who are believed to have entered the country illegally more than five years ago, but whose children are citizens or lawful permanent residents. As a result of executive orders, those individuals who passed background checks and paid fees will soon be able to seek relief from deportation and get work permits. The president also expanded eligibility for deportation relief to those who arrived in the U.S. as minors before 2010.
Sen. Angus King says he supports immigration reform, but not in the manner that the president has chosen. "I'm just concerned it may set the cause back," King says.
King says the president is fully aware that the leaders in the new Republican-led Congress were opposed to his plans, and should not have taken unilateral action.
"We've got now a Republican House and a Republican Senate, so by definition if we're going to have comprehensive reform, it's got to involve Republicans," he says. "And I'm just afraid by sort of laying down the gauntlet, and sort of going it alone, it's going to make it more difficult to gain some consensus on this issue."
"The president simply does not have the authority under the Constitution to unilaterally implement a new law," Republican Sen. Susan Collins says. "And that's essentially what he's doing."
Collins says the president's actions this week have so angered some of her Republican colleagues that some are threatening a government shutdown over the issue. Collins says that would be disastrous.
"I don't think anyone is realistically looking at shutting down government over this issue - that would be completely unfair to the American people and a disaster," Collins says. "I would hope that we would have learned that that is a completely inappropriate response - one that I was never for, but some of my colleagues do pursue."
Collins says she supported bipartisan immigration reform legislation that passed the Senate last year, but that failed in the House.
Democratic 1st District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree takes a different view of the president's actions on immigration, and believes that he was well within his rights to offer a solution to the immigration after Congress dropped the ball.
"Let's face it: The United States Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform 500 days ago. and the House of Representatives has refused to do anything about it," Pingree says. "Every president over the last 50 years has taken executive action on immigration, and it certainly needs reform. Congress just is not getting it done."
The president's executive order affects approximately 5 million people, leaving 6 million more who are in the country illegally in limbo.