Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley outlined an extensive immigration plan on Tuesday, vowing that if elected, he would make comprehensive reform a priority on his first day in office.
The former Maryland governor said he would expand President Obama’s embattled executive actions on immigration and ultimately press Congress to resurrect a bipartisan deal on comprehensive reform to extend a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
“My end goal is to get 11 million people out of the shadow economy and shadow society and in the light of full participation,” O’Malley said at a round-table event with immigrant-rights advocates in New York.
Touting his record on immigration issues, including signing the Maryland DREAM Act into law, which provided in-state tuition to undocumented students and opened the state to thousands of unaccompanied minors in the wake of last summer’s border crisis, O’Malley said he would take executive action to provide deportation relief to millions of undocumented immigrants as they await comprehensive reform legislation to make its way through Congress.
A bipartisan deal on immigration reform had already passed the Senate in 2013, only to languish in the House for more than a year before ultimately being declared dead in Congress. In the wake of congressional inaction, President Obama issued rounds of executive actions last November that would offer temporary work permits and a deportation reprieve to more than four million undocumented immigrants.
But those actions are currently on hold, caught in a legal battle after Texas and 25 other states brought a lawsuit challenging the measures. Though confident that the executive actions will ultimately prevail in court, it is likely that the Obama administration will be forced to bring the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, punting the earliest implementation squarely into 2016 presidential territory.
Democratic frontrunner and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has already come out with a broad immigration plan that also promises a pathway to citizenship and extension to Obama’s executive measures.
Outlining his position in detail, O’Malley outlined steps to streamline the process for legal immigration, and called for an end to restrictions limiting heath-care access to undocumented immigrants who qualify for executive relief.
“This is about forging a new consensus,” O’Malley said repeatedly on Tuesday, appearing optimistic that younger generations of American voters would be more welcoming toward immigrants.
The former Maryland governor took aim at his opponents on the Republican spectrum of the presidential race, condemning 2016 contender Donald Trump’s controversial claims that undocumented Mexican immigrants are often drug dealers and rapists.
“I hope its not representative of the Republican Party,” O’Malley said. “It’s disturbing though when their presidential candidates appear divided and very silent.”