Collins Criticizes Zoller on Immigration

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Responding to President Obama’s announcement last week, Ninth District Candidate Rep. Doug Collins (Gainesville) criticized opponent Martha Zoller’s position on immigration. Last Week, President Obama announced he would no longer deport certain groups of illegal immigrants. According to a article,

“Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military.”

On Monday, Collins issued a press release criticizing Zoller’s immigration position, drawing a parallel between Zoller’s and Obama’s ideas. The basis of Collins’ accusation was an October 2011 FYN interview with Zoller. In the interview, Zoller suggested that, after securing the borders, one way to address the immigration situation is to re-institute the guest worker or work permit program. On deportation, she also said she favors looking at illegal immigrants on a case-by-case scenario.

“I think an illegal immigrant that comes in here (the country) and continues to break the law… by drug-running…is a little different than a family that’s come here and not broken the law and has tried to do things the right way,”

she said in October. The Collins press release, clipped from the larger context of Zoller’s discussion with FYN, however, is misleading. In the interview, FYN asked Zoller how she would address illegal immigration, if she would favor gathering up all illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S. and simply deport them. Zoller said no, that the situation is more complicated than that. She said she would favor deporting hardened criminals, like drug-runners, but said we need to look at hard-working illegal immigrants, those contributing to society, those with tax ID cards who are paying taxes. The latter group is the case-by-base scenario Zoller referred to in the video clip.

Watch Mrs. Zoller’s interview with FYN in its full context here.

In an email to FYN regarding the president’s remarks, Zoller seemed to take more of a hard-line position on immigration.

“President Obama continues to behave like a spoiled, socialist dictator,”

she stated,

“who skirts the legislative process and makes edicts from the Oval House to ensure the implementation of his liberal, pro-amnesty agenda…Congress needs to assert its power and stop this power hungry, out-of-control executive before its too late.”

These statements, though, address the process of the president’s policy, which circumvents Congressional and Constitutional process, not the policy or concept behind the policy. Responding to president’s policy itself, which seemed to conceptually resemble Zoller’s previous ideas on immigration, Zoller said,

“My response to President Obama’s new immigration policy is simple – we have laws in America and everyone should have to follow them or face the consequences.”

In short, the president’s announcement was a public declaration that he would not follow the current immigration laws. Since the announcement, a host of analysts have questioned the legality and Constitutionality of using an executive order to make this change.

When asked to clarify Zoller’s immigration views in light of the Obama announcement, Zoller Campaign Manager Ryan Mahoney said that Zoller believes the enforcement side of immigration needs to be changed, specifically securing the borders. Additionally, he said Zoller believes in a guest worker program and feels that the Visa process for immigrants needs to be revised. He also specified that at no time did Zoller agree with the president’s decision.

For his part, Collins said in a press release that he voted for the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, which requires employers in Georgia to use e-verify during the hiring process.

“Prior to the Georgia General Assembly passing the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011,”

he stated,

“our state had one of the highest number of illegal residents — placing a heavy financial burden on Georgia taxpayers. I was proud to vote with an overwhelming number of my colleagues in favor of this legislation, which again goes to my record of consistent conservative action as a citizen legislator for the past six years.”

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, though fails to address the issue of mixed status families. When FYN asked the Collins campaign if Rep. Collins had an immigration reform plan and if the federal government should deport over a over a million illegal aliens, some children who were brought here and broke the law by no fault of their own, Collins Press Secretary Lorre Anne Thompson simply reasserted that Rep. Collins voted for the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act., sidestepping the conundrum of mixed-status families and deportation.

Since the president’s announcement, the move has been criticized for its process. Detractors say they disagree with the process by which the president approached the immigration issue, which violates Constitutional process and circumvents Congress, averting an immigration discussion on the floor. However, the policy itself seems to mirror reform ideas presented on the campaign trail by former presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Some say it also reflects Sen. Marco Rubio’s ideas that the Florida Senator discusses in his upcoming book, ideas from a plan that will offer an alternative to the DREAM Act. Rubio recently stated, however, that among the differences between his plan and the DREAM Act is any immigration reform must go through the Constitutional process. This week, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said Rubio was being thoroughly vetted for his vice presidential running mate.

Both Collins and Zoller are also opposed to the president’s approach to the immigration issue. In a conversation with FYN this week, Mahoney said that Zoller acknowledges the need for reform, but emphasized any change should go through the appropriate legislative process via Congress according to the Constitution. The Collins camp, though, was silent on how to handle the immigration issue, other than using Georgia’s 2011 legislation as a model.

The other Ninth District Candidates also weighed in on the issue. Straying from party lines, Democrat Jody Cooley said,

“I believe its a humane and positive policy modification…However, it does nothing to solve the problem-and that is we need a civil debate in Congress, that I hope would lead to a comprehensive bill that would provide-admission of impropriety, payment of a reasonable fine, payment of any taxes due, and provides a path to citizenship or legal status. Only a comprehensive bill will clarify these issues.”

Roger Fitzpatrick responded by stating lucidly,

“The Executive branch of our Federal Government has a sworn duty to defend and uphold the laws of this land, whether that be the Constitution or laws duly passed by the Legislative branch. This is another example of the current administration ignoring that sworn duty and choosing to do whatever he pleases. Should Congress choose to pass a law granting illegal immigrants the same privileges mentioned in the President’s plan, then and only then may those who have crossed our borders illegally and meet the mentioned criteria be granted immunity from deportation. This President has a history of acting in a legislative manner, totally ignoring the separation of powers mandated in the Constitution. Congress MUST act to stop the President’s abuse of the Constitution by not allowing him to continue legislating in an illegal manner.”

The immigration issue is expected to persist nationally and here in Georgia, which has one of the highest numbers of illegal immigrants in the nation.

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