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Where they stand: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Lisa Brown split on the wall, refugees and family migration

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 13, 2018, 2:03 p.m.

The dispute in Washington, D.C., that shuttered the federal government for three days last month centered on the fate of roughly 700,000 people living in America who’ve received a reprieve from deportation.

Both women vying this November to represent Eastern Washington in Congress said immigration reforms are needed. Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she agreed with many of the actions President Donald Trump has taken on the issue. Her Democratic opponent, Lisa Brown, attacked many of those policies and blamed House Republican leadership, which includes McMorris Rodgers, for the lack of legislation addressing immigration issues.

The Senate was scheduled to begin discussion of large-scale immigration policy Monday, pursuant to a deal Republicans brokered with Democrats to end the January shutdown.

Trump’s announcement late last year that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, first enacted by his predecessor President Barack Obama, has hastened talks in Congress about reforms to the nation’s immigration policies. That has included demands from Senate Democrats that the issue be taken up before a March 5 deadline the president imposed, and the record-setting speech last week from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling for permanent assurances that those children of immigrants who came to America illegally would continue to have protections as part of a spending deal.

McMorris Rodgers said she supports “a fix” for the program that would incorporate principles agreed to by a bipartisan group of senators. Trump rejected a proposed agreement in January, prompting an outcry over his use of a vulgar term to refer to certain countries whose immigrants were eligible for protected status in the United States.

“There’s been some encouraging bipartisan, bicameral negotiations underway, where they have agreed now to four principles,” the congresswoman said in an interview late last month. Those include addressing the Obama-era policy for children of undocumented immigrants, the green card program, border security and “chain migration,” which allows the family members of legal residents to bring over certain family members.

Brown said she supported Congress passing a law making permanent Obama’s policy deferring deportation for children of undocumented immigrants. As for a future path to citizenship, a sticking point in talks on Capitol Hill, the Democrat said that should be negotiated as part of a larger immigration package.

“I think the rest of it is subject to a negotiation, and that makes sense to me,” Brown said.

The congresswoman has sided with Trump on funding a border wall proposal, though McMorris Rodgers said advancing technology likely wouldn’t mean a physical span stretching across the nearly 2,000-mile stretch between the United States and Mexico. McMorris Rodgers was one of 235 lawmakers, all but five of them Republicans, who voted in favor of a July spending bill that authorized $1.6 billion for construction of a border wall.

She also said she supports Trump’s order calling for a halt to immigration from certain countries while the administration reviews its policies.

“I think it’s important for us ensure that this program is protecting the people that are here, and that we know who’s coming into this country,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Brown rejected what she said amounted to a ban on an entire country’s population from entering the U.S., and that the wall had the potential to alienate an important trade partner.

“Pulling it into this framework of, we’re building a wall, and Mexico’s going to pay for it, is really unfortunate for the state of Washington,” Brown said.

In 2016, Washington exported nearly $2 billion worth of goods to Mexico, according to U.S. census data. But that number has fallen in recent years, down from $3.2 billion in 2013.

Both women said the federal government needed to address the guest worker program for migrants toiling in the state’s agricultural fields. McMorris Rodgers said the federal government should look at easing the costs for farmers.

“The current program includes cost of transportation, housing and paying a modified prevailing wage. I think all of that needs to be looked at,” she said.

Brown didn’t provide specifics but said that the visa program needed to be reworked and that, if elected, she would seek assignment to the House Agriculture Committee to work on the issue.

Race for Congress: Where They Stand

In the first of an occasional series examining positions of candidates for Congress representing Eastern Washington, we asked incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her opponent, former state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, about immigration policy.

Kip Hillkiph@spokesman.com

Select issue:

Lisa Brown (Democrat)

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Republican)

THE WALL

Do you support President Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall at the Mexican border?

Lisa Brown - No

No

“I think that border security is something that makes a lot of sense. I don’t think walls, necessarily, make sense,” Brown said.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers - Mostly

Mostly

McMorris Rodgers supports funding for the wall, but said it may not be a physical barrier in all locations. “New technology, I think, is going to vary along that southern border. But I have supported what the president has requested to date,” she said.

REFUGEES

Do you support reductions made by Trump to the number of refugees that can be admitted annually into the United States? If not, how many refugees should be allowed to enter?

Lisa Brown - No

No

“I don’t think an arbitrary number is the right approach,” Brown said.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers - Partially

Partially

McMorris Rodgers said she supports a number larger than the 45,000 refugees the Trump administration authorized for 2018, but less than the 85,000 the administration of President Barack Obama admitted in its final year.

Do you support the ban on immigration from seven countries, including Chad, Libya and Iran?

Lisa Brown - No

No

“I don’t agree with a ban on people from an entire country,” Brown said.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers - Yes

Yes

McMorris Rodgers said she supported Trump’s order as “a pause” on immigration to evaluate the admission process.

FAMILY TIES VS. SKILLS

Should the U.S. end or significantly cut family reunification visas, as the president has proposed, and instead allow more migrants in based on education and job skills?

Lisa Brown - No

No

Brown said she has not seen evidence that family reunification visas are causing problems.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers - Yes

Yes

McMorris Rodgers said so-called “chain migration,” particularly definitions of which family members would qualify, should be re-evaluated.

ENFORCEMENT

Should local law enforcement agencies detain people they suspect of being in the country illegally even if there is no other basis for detaining them?

Lisa Brown - No

No

Brown supports the policy of the City of Spokane, codified by the City Council, which prohibits officers from asking about the citizenship status of people they question.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers - Yes

Yes

McMorris Rodgers said local law enforcement should work with federal officials.

“When they come across someone that is here illegally, they should be working with the federal agents on those cases,” McMorris Rodgers said. The congresswoman said she believed that should include detention and jailing.

Do you support spot checks by immigration authorities at agricultural sites to ensure workers are legally in the country?

Lisa Brown - No

No

“Farmers and agricultural employers have enough challenges right now. Federal agencies should be working with them to resolve workforce shortages,” Brown said in a statement.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers - No

No

McMorris Rodgers said in a statement from her campaign, “I do believe in the need to enforce rule of law, but we should be focusing on removing dangerous criminals.”

GUEST WORKERS

Many Washington farmers say they have trouble filling farm jobs with Americans, but find it’s not cost-effective to bring in guest workers, do you support current rules or are there specific changes you support.

Lisa Brown - Yes

Yes

Brown supports revisions to current law, including changes to the visa permitting foreign workers to take temporary agriculture jobs (called the H-2A visa) but she said she needs to study the issue more to determine what changes should be made.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers - Yes

Yes

“The current program includes cost of transportation, housing and a modified prevailing wage. I think all of that needs to be looked at,” McMorris Rodgers said.

DACA

Do you support a path to citizenship to undocumented residents who came to the United States as children with their parents?

Lisa Brown - Yes

Yes

Congress should codify the existing program, Brown said. “I think the rest of it should be subject to negotiation … I don’t have the ideal immigration policy sketched out. I’ll work on the details of that as we go forward,” she said.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers - Yes

Yes

McMorris Rodgers said she supported “a legal status that could be reviewed on a regular basis and eventually become permanent.” Applicants would have to meet “certain criteria” over time to apply for citizenship, she said.


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