The sign tells voters the basics. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: U.S. Congressional Candidates for 3rd Middlesex District State Positions on Current Administration’s Immigration Policy

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WestfordCAT has asked the 11 U.S. Congressional candidates for the Third Middlesex District to respond to questions about pressing societal issues. The answers from those who responded are below [Beej Das, Leonard Golder, Rick Green,  Juana Matias, and Rufus Gifford did not respond].

This week’s question: *****QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Do you agree with the current administration’s approach to border security? What is the most important component of current immigration laws that need to be addressed by congress and what would be your position on that? (Preventing illegal crossings, amount of available work visas, excluding countries or religious sects, sanctuary cities, asylum quotas, better tracking of applicants, etc..)*******

JOHN BALLINGER, Andover Democrat

It should be noted that the current crisis is with Central American countries where we had a great deal to do with the dysfunction of those governments.

 The number one issue for me is this notion that there are “jobs Americans won’t do.”  Since we have excluded farm workers from the National Labor Relations Act, these workers can never organize. We will never know what wage Americans are willing to work for if they are not given the right to organize.

 I favor immigration enforcement – but ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and many other federal departments involved in immigration do not function well because of drastic cuts. You can’t even make an informed opinion about the various visa programs because we don’t have enough people in the field. The Republicans have demonized our government and regulations so thoroughly for the last 40 years that we have bad statistics. We don’t spend enough money to get on top of the multitude of enforcement problems.

We have to do border enforcement, but I don’t think we have to do it in an inhumane way. Those who overstay their visas are also a huge concern. This should be a manageable problem, but again, the resources just aren’t there.

Alexandra Chandler, Haverhill Democrat

My first priority would be to defund ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations implementation of the Trump Administration “zero tolerance” policy targeting refugees of no threat to national security by attaching an amendment to must pass legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act.

Following this most urgent priority, I would aim to pass comprehensive immigration reform. To me that means creating a safe, streamlined, and transparent system where the United States once again welcomes visitors, short-term immigrants, and asylum seekers in accordance with our values and with international law, and creates a path to permanent residency and citizenship to all people of any immigration or documentation status who have not been convicted of dangerous crime. This would include a permanent fix to give DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and previous DAPA [Deferred Action for Parental Accountability] recipients a path to citizenship, as well as to restore the legal residency of any Temporary Protected Status recipients who have lost status.

There are more than 180 different types of visas for residency in the United States. This complexity is an unnecessary burden to immigrants and U.S. employers. I aim to consolidate cumbersome immigration bureaucracy to the fullest extent we can within treaty obligations and constraints. I will ensure better integration with intelligence and investigative efforts so we may welcome an even broader and more diverse array of immigrants with diverse skills and refugees while still protecting our national security.

I will also seek to ban the federal government from contracting with private prison corporations to detain immigrants, and I will vote to remove this tax break to roll back the use of private prisons– for immigrants and those in the criminal justice system– at the state and local level.

Dan Koh, Andover Democrat

My family immigrated to Lawrence from Lebanon and Korea; today, Donald Trump would stop us at the border. Donald Trump is directly attacking the American Dream that made my family’s story and millions of others possible.

The Trump administration’s policies around immigration– from travel bans to ripping families apart at the border– are racist and not who we should be as a country. We need to reject radical, anti-immigrant rhetoric and renew our nation’s fundamental promise of a fair and inclusive immigration policy.

We must stop the Trump Administration from indiscriminately and inhumanely separating parents from their children. I will be a vocal advocate for a stand-alone bill that permanently protects DREAMers and DACA recipients. And I will push for comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship and focuses on family reunification.

Barbara L’Italien, Andover Democrat

Immigrants are vital to what makes America, America. I never forget in making immigration policy that today’s immigrants are coming here for the exact same reason my grandparents did: a better life for their kids.

This administration’s approach to border security is cruel, and it’s wrong. When we’re putting children in cages and permanently separating them from their parents, it is time to acknowledge that things need to change.

Our immigration system is fundamentally broken, and we need comprehensive rather than piecemeal reform. Undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record and meet key standards should have a path to remain part of our community, and enforcement of immigration laws needs to be restructured to be fair, just, compassionate and reflect the values of a nation of immigrants.

This is one of the most divisive issues we face in our country, and real reform may not be achievable under this president or in our current political environment. But the work to build support for long-term solutions has to start now. I’m the only experienced legislator in this race – I’ve been a lawmaker for 15 years. I have the legislative skill to build the coalitions to see this through.

You can read more about my platform on immigration policy at teambarbara.com/issues.

Bopha Malone, Bedford Democrat

Immigration is in critical need of reform – but it must be done in a humane and compassionate way. The United States can be safe and strong while still helping those who need the most help.

I’m blessed to be an immigrant to this country, and to have been given the support to succeed and live the American dream. America gave my family opportunity when we needed help. Under Trump’s racist policies, America is no longer that place of hope and leadership around the world.  Refugees are fleeing violence, disasters and economic hardship — I know, because my family and I lived it in fleeing Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge regime.

Congress needs to pass a bi-partisan legislative solution to protect our DACA Dreamers now — not as a bargaining chip to build a ridiculous wall. I support efforts to create a path to citizenship for law-abiding immigrants.

Beyond our borders, the world is experiencing a major refugee crisis with millions displaced due to war in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. We need to address this crisis so that every country assumes its responsibility to meet this humanitarian challenge.

Lori Trahan, Westford Democrat

President Trump’s approach to border security is completely inhumane. Diversity and inclusion are what makes this country great and we have a lot of work to do to get to a place where these things are celebrated. Congress is long overdue to pass comprehensive immigration reform that treats people with dignity and respect. We need pathways to citizenship so that undocumented immigrants can live and work in the light of day. We need to fulfill the promises we made to DREAMers six years ago when we first extended DACA status. We need to radically transform ICE and end the inhumanity that has been cruelly leveled against immigrants.
Immigration enforcement should not be conducting raids outside of schools or at courthouses, or separating parents from their children. Our focus must be on addressing real threats to our security, like drugs, human trafficking, terrorism, and weapons smuggling. We also must continue to provide aid to the global community so that we can address the root causes of the crises that are forcing so many to flee their homes and seek refuge in this country in the first place.
For more on my immigration policy, visit: https://loritrahan.com/immigration-policy/