Candidate Q&A: Minn.’s First Congressional District

Published 6:50 am Wednesday, September 2, 2020

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Author’s note: This is the continuation of the Herald’s candidate Q&A features and the second such feature with Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN1) and challenger Dan Feehan (DFL). In this feature, the candidates were asked questions about immigration.

Here are their responses.

1. In your opinion, what should be a key aspect (or aspects) of an immigration reform bill?

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Feehan: As a combat veteran who served in Iraq, I have put my life on the line to keep our country safe, secure, and free. For too long, politicians like Jim Hagedorn in Washington have failed to get meaningful immigration reform accomplished. I’ll always fight to keep our country safe and our borders secure, and work to actually make progress on this issue.

Specifically, I would support and advocate for comprehensive immigration reform to strengthen our communities, our agricultural sector, and economy in southern Minnesota.

The uncertainty that currently exists in our immigration system compromises both our country’s security and economic health. That’s why I will work with both parties to ensure that we prioritize going after drug traffickers, criminals, and terrorists who try to enter this country. We must also work with other countries to stem the sources of trafficking and terrorism. I would seek the input of law enforcement on the ground and provide funding for better training and technology.

Hagedorn: I support a system of legal immigration with secure borders and enforcement of the rule of law. I oppose amnesty. In Congress, I have advocated for the President’s program to build a wall and augment physical border security, replace chain migration with merit-based immigration, end “catch and release,” require asylum claims to be made outside the United States, discontinue birthright citizenship, and stop the lawlessness of sanctuary cities.

Our plan is commonsense and would reassert our nation’s sovereignty, protect U.S. taxpayers, defend the interests of American workers and reduce crime.

An immigration system tailored to merit is especially needed to protect low-skilled American workers from unfair competition and perpetually depressed wages. Transitioning to merit-based immigration and a liberally-administered temporary work program would increase the economic diversity of immigration flows while still providing needed labor to support our country’s agriculture, construction and other sectors.

Additionally, the President’s “Remain in Mexico” policy has helped curtail catch and release and move the chaos deep into Mexico and away from our southern border. This policy requires asylum claims to be filed in home countries or the first country that offers safe haven, such as Mexico, Panama or Belize. This way people can have claims considered and not risk life and limb making the dangerous trip to our border.

2. Do you support the Supreme Court’s decision ordering the Trump Administration to accept new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applicants and requests for Advance Parole? Do you support the Department of Homeland Security memo stating it will reject first-time applicants, reject Advance Parole (unless under exceptional circumstances) and renew work permits for one year instead of two?

Feehan: I support the bipartisan DREAM Act which will help grow our communities and bolster our economy.

Hagedorn: DACA is a program invented by President Barack Obama to grant temporary legal immigration status to illegal aliens who entered the United States as minors. I consider DACA unconstitutional because Congress has never authorized the program that grants green cards and federal benefits.

A recent Supreme Court case ruled on whether the Trump administration has standing to discontinue DACA applications and other actions. In a 5-4 decision, the court blocked the administration from discontinuing applications, but in the view of legal experts, only temporarily.

In my view, any consideration of the long-term status of DACA participants should be delayed until America’s borders are secure and chain migration is replaced with merit-based immigration. It is important to note that last year President Trump offered permanent status for DACA participants in return for border security measures and legislative fixes to close loopholes used by illegal aliens to enter and remain in the United States. However, the President’s compromise was rejected by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.

As for advance parole, a procedure that enables DACA participants to travel outside the United States, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has reasserted that advance parole will be granted based upon exceptional humanitarian circumstances. The Department’s position seems reasonable.

3. Do you agree with halting asylum procedures and suspending foreign worker visas during the current coronavirus pandemic?

Feehan: I would work on legislation with local schools, agriculture groups, businesses, and communities to ensure we have an immigration system that prioritizes our security in southern Minnesota and strengthens our economy. While Congressman Hagedorn opposed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a bipartisan immigration reform bill that was supported by the Farm Bureau, I would work with both Republicans and Democrats on legislation that meets the needs of our farm economy and ensures we have a strong guest worker program with flexibility for employers and protections for workers.

Hagedorn: Yes, with the exception of agriculture jobs. Since March of this year, United States businesses and workers have faced widespread disruptions while undertaking certain measures necessary to deal with COVID-19. At the beginning of the pandemic, overall unemployment rate in the United States transitioned from historical record lows to record highs. Because of this, we must focus on restoring our economic prominence and getting Americans back to work.

American workers compete against foreign nationals for jobs in every sector of our economy – this includes millions of aliens who enter the United States to perform temporary work. Under ordinary circumstances, appropriately managed temporary worker programs provide benefits to the economy. But under the unexpected circumstances stemming from the pause in our economy associated with the coronavirus, certain non-immigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers. Again, my exception is agricultural workers.

4. Should sanctuary cities be eligible to receive federal funds?

Feehan: Because Rep. Hagedorn has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders and builds our community, our local officials and law enforcement are paying the price. We need real reform now and that’s why in Congress, I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform that prioritizes our security and also ensures our communities in Austin, Albert Lea, and all across southern Minnesota are vibrant, strong, and prosperous.

Hagedorn: No. According to United States law, it is illegal to bring or harbor illegal immigrants in our Nation. However, in violation of this law, cities, counties, and other subdivisions have adopted policies specifically focused on bringing in, harboring, and even attracting illegal aliens. By doing this, they are breaking the law, violating the trust of the taxpayers and subjecting citizens to violent crime, identity theft and even death. Shockingly, during my Freeborn County town hall, supporters of Dan Feehan openly advocated to make their county a sanctuary. Thankfully they are part of a small minority.

5. Anything else you want to add?

Feehan: No answer provided.

Hagedorn: My support for secure borders and a system of legal, merit-based immigration is in direct contrast with Dan Feehan’s agenda of open borders, free medical care for illegal aliens, direct cash payments to illegals, an end of deportations, amnesty and support for sanctuary cities. Feehan’s radical open borders policies are in line with Nancy Pelosi, Ilhan Omar and AOC, but are at odds with the views and values of southern Minnesotans.

Meanwhile, I will continue to partner with President Trump to reinstate border security and support the men and women of our Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the local law enforcement officers who operate the ICE detention facility in Albert Lea.

As a member of Congress, my first responsibility is to defend the United States and protect our citizens – to put the needs of America first – and that’s what I will continue to do during a second term.