News Releases



Murray on immigration reform: “It’s time to hope for the best, but it’s also time to plan for the worst." 

WA Senior Senator lays out her priorities for Administrative action if House Republicans refuse to pass immigration reform legislation

Murray: U.S. should stop deportation of non-criminal detainees, ensure due process in the immigration court system, expand prosecutorial discretion, dramatically reform detention policies

Today, in a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) laid out her priorities for Administrative action on federal immigration policies if House Republicans fail to take up comprehensive immigration reform legislation this summer.  Murray said that if Republicans ignore their opportunity to act, the Obama Administration should stop deportation of non-criminal detainees, ensure due process in the immigration court system, expand prosecutorial discretion, and dramatically reform detention policies.

In her speech, Murray also detailed specific examples of how the broken immigration system is impacting families and communities in Washington state. She discussed the concerning treatment of undocumented detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA and senseless deportation actions taken against undocumented immigrants in Washington state, including Benjamin Munez-Marquez, a beloved community member and critical employee at the West Sound Lumber Company on Orcas Island.

“Since the Senate passed immigration reform, tens of thousands of people - many of them women and children – have been senselessly deported from this country and separated from their families – for no reason other than their undocumented status.  Businesses large and small have begged members of the House to pass reform: from tech companies who need to hire the best and brightest from around the world, to agriculture businesses who desperately need a stable workforce. And now, M. President, we’re seeing, along our country’s southern border, hundreds of unaccompanied young children – many fleeing horrific gang violence in their home countries – desperately seeking safety and a new life in the United States, but, because of our broken immigration laws, we’re nearly helpless to respond and live up to our nation’s global reputation as a place of safety, fairness, and freedom.”

“First, the Administration should make changes to ensure that while we’re being tough on those who are a threat to our public safety or national security, we’re enforcing our immigration laws in a smart, humane way for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are American in all but name….Second, we need to re-establish in our immigration system the most basic of American principles: due process of law…Finally M. President, we must expand prosecutorial discretion and decide that before we deport someone like Ben Nunez-Marquez out of this country – we should take a second to use our common sense, first.”

“I look forward to working with President Obama, along with Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress, to ensure our immigration system works. And I know so many people here and around the country join me in hoping House Republicans step up and do the job that the American people expect them to do.”

Last year, Senator Murray and a bipartisan group of her colleagues voted to pass a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill through the Senate which strengthened border protections while creating a real path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people living in the shadows.  Since the Senate acted last year, Senator Murray has led her colleagues in calling on House Republicans to take up and pass the Senate bill

Just last week, Senator Murray met with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Deputy Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, to express her significant concern with DHS’s response to the recent surge in undocumented youths detained by U.S. officials after crossing the United States’ Southern border.  Senator Murray has been working to pass additional federal funding to provide basic legal information and protections for detained undocumented immigrants, including unaccompanied children, and fund 35 new Immigration Judge Teams to adjudicate tens of thousands of additional cases and reduce the existing backlog. That legislation, which was passed by a critical committee earlier this month, is pending consideration by the full Senate.

Senator Murray’s remarks, as prepared:

“M. President, almost exactly one year ago to the day, all of the members of the Senate came to this Chamber for what each of us understood was an historic vote.

“Because after years – even decades – of debate and discussion, a small group of bipartisan Senators – members from different backgrounds, different states, and certainly different philosophies – had come together to reach an agreement on landmark legislation. A bill that would – truly – change the lives of millions of Americans.

“They had reached a deal that would significantly boost our economy, make every one of our communities fundamentally safer, and help millions of men and women pursue the American Dream,

“But most of all, it was a deal that showed the United States was still capable of adapting, improving, and striving for perfection.

“Still, the deal wasn’t perfect, after all, it was a compromise, and once it was reached, it had to survive incredible scrutiny throughout the committee process and then during floor consideration.

“But somehow, it made it through.

“And so, one year ago this week, when each member of the Senate came to the Chamber, we did something we don’t normally do: we honored an old Senate tradition and cast our votes from our desks.

“And that night, M. President, we finally passed comprehensive immigration reform through the United States Senate.

“M. President, I remember well the optimism we all shared that night.

“After years of trying, we had finally passed, with votes from Republicans and from Democrats – legislation that would finally start to fix our broken immigration system.

“It would strengthen our borders, support our businesses, and most importantly – provide a real path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are forced to live in the shadows – as Americans in all but name.

“The Congressional Budget Office even estimated the Senate bill would grow our economy and would also reduce the deficit by nearly $1 trillion over the next two decades.

“So, we sent the bill to the House of Representatives knowing the path forward there might not be easy, but we’d heard from the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, the Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, and dozens of other members – from both sides of the aisle – that they also knew immigration reform had to happen this Congress.

“But since then, M. President, we’ve watched and we’ve waited as the Speaker and House Republicans simply refuse, week after week, and month after month, to take up the Senate bill and move this process forward.

“For a full year, we’ve witnessed exactly what it looks like when Congress simply fails to do its job for the American people.

“M. President, our broken immigration system isn’t a hypothetical problem.

“This isn’t an obscure, philosophical disagreement over the role of government.

“This is an issue that has real, tangible consequences for millions of Americans, and while America has watched House Republicans fail to act for a full year, we’ve also seen some of those consequences up close.

“Since the Senate passed immigration reform, tens of thousands of people - many of them women and children – have been senselessly deported from this country and separated from their families – for no reason other than their undocumented status.

“Businesses large and small have begged members of the House to pass reform: from tech companies who need to hire the best and brightest from around the world, to agriculture businesses who desperately need a stable workforce.

“And now, M. President, we’re seeing, along our country’s southern border, hundreds of unaccompanied young children – many fleeing horrific gang violence in their home countries – desperately seeking safety and a new life in the United States, but, because of our broken immigration laws, we’re nearly helpless to respond and live up to our nation’s global reputation as a place of safety, fairness, and freedom.

“Although these children broke our immigration laws, they are not criminals. They are simply coming to our Country to escape violence at home and strive for a better life in America.

“And M. President, it’s not only along our southern border where our immigration system is hurting families and hurting communities.

“In my home state of Washington, I’ve heard from hundreds of families and businesses who have been directly impacted by our broken system.

“Businesses like the West Sound Lumber Company on Orcas Island – a small sawmill owned by the Helsell family for more than four decades.

“West Sound Lumber is only able to keep its doors open because of a young man, Benjamin Nunez-Marquez, who goes by Ben.

“Ben is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico – and since he arrived on Orcas Island more than a decade ago – he’s become a cherished member of the community and an expert sawyer – the Helsell’s will tell you they’d have to close down if they lost Ben.

“And that possibility nearly became a reality when Ben was randomly stopped by an immigration official while he was taking an elderly neighbor to a doctor’s appointment out of town.

“Though he posed no danger to his community, the Department of Homeland Security scheduled him for deportation, which was only narrowly avoided this year after I took his case directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Seattle Times told Ben’s story on its front page.

“M. President, we should not be kicking people like Ben Nunez-Marquez out of this country.

“We should welcome him, we should treat him like a human being, and we should give him an opportunity to become a citizen in the country he loves – our country.

“And M. President, senseless deportations aren’t the only symptom of our broken immigration laws.

“Just this year, local headlines and television reports in Washington state have revealed very concerning treatment of undocumented detainees at the Northwest Detention Center.

“That treatment led to a widely publicized hunger strike and protests in communities across my state.

“M. President, that is simply unacceptable.

“We must demand better than an immigration system that leads men and women – whose only crime is their pursuit of the American dream – to be locked up, abused, and discarded over the border.

“M. President, these problems aren’t new, and they’re not going away.

“Throughout this year, we’ve heard that House Republicans will have a window of opportunity to act on immigration reform.

“Well, M. President, that we’re in that window now.  Republican primaries are behind us and the general election is months away. 

“But that window is quickly closing, so the pressure is on House Republicans, and millions of Americans across the country are hoping they do the right thing.  The time to act is now.

“So M. President, it’s time to hope for the best, but it’s also time to plan for the worst.

“President Obama has made it clear that he’s willing to take Administrative Action if the House refuses to pass comprehensive immigration reform, so I want to lay out my principles for what that action should look like – what I will urge the President to do if the worst happens, if Republicans do nothing.

“First – the Administration should make changes to ensure that while we’re being tough on those who are a threat to our public safety or national security, we’re enforcing our immigration laws in a smart, humane way for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are American in all but name.

“And frankly, that means changing our priorities.

“It means focusing our immigration enforcement efforts, including deportations, on actual criminals who are a danger to our communities, not innocent people like Ben Nunez-Marquez who randomly cross paths with an immigration official.

“And, not undocumented immigrants who live in our communities, attend church along side us, and whose only crime is seeking a better life in the United States.

“It also means that we should stop relying on detention centers to lock-away undocumented immigrants who pose no public safety risk, are already in our country, and are contributing members of their community.

“Rather than simply locking people up in terrible conditions and sending them away – we should take advantage of more humane, more cost effective methods of enforcement, such as weekly check-ins with immigration officials.

“Second, we need to re-establish in our immigration system the most basic of American principles: due process of law.

“For example, if you’re in our Country, absolutely no one should be deported or turned away from the United States without a hearing before an immigration judge – and part of making that a reality is providing funding for immigration judges and access to legal information for undocumented immigrants.

“The policies at every single federal agency that deals with undocumented immigrants, including ICE, Border Patrol, and any other agency– should be reformed so that they’re consistent, transparent, and fair.

“Because for too long, the rules have been different from one Federal agency to another, and the policies have been so convoluted and illogical that innocent families are torn apart.

“We should also discontinue the use of unconstitutional ICE detainers when there is no probable cause, as many counties have bravely done in the Pacific Northwest.

“Because not only is holding someone without probable cause a violation of our Constitutional rights, it is expensive to local sheriffs and diverts precious law-enforcement resources away from policing and protecting communities. 

“We should reduce the 100-mile enforcement radius for Border Patrol agents and make sure there isn’t one inch of land in this country that can be called “a Constitution-free zone.”

“Finally M. President, we must expand prosecutorial discretion and decide that before we deport someone like Ben Nunez-Marquez out of this country – we should take a second to use our common sense, first.

“We should build on the great success the Administration has had with DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, and ensure that federal agencies are focusing their efforts on actual criminals – not families trying to make a life in the United States.

“None of these actions can solve the underlying problem of a broken immigration system – only legislation from Congress can do that, but if the inaction of the House Republicans continues—and I hope it doesn’t—we would be left without a choice.

“M. President, since that historic vote one year ago, we have all watched as more and more of our friends and neighbors fall victim to immigration laws that were designed for criminals, not families or our economy.

“And we’ve seen members of the House of Representatives choose politics over good policy and completely ignore a full-blown crisis that we have the power to change.

“I look forward to working with President Obama, along with Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress, to ensure our immigration system works. And I know so many people here and around the country join me in hoping House Republicans step up and do the job that the American people expect them to do.”

“Thank, you M. President, I yield the floor.”