WASHINGTON – Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin presented the first National Governors Association “State of the States” address Wednesday, but the one of President Barack Obama’s priorities – immigration reform – was not on the agenda.
“Immigration, right now, is a federal issue,” Markell, a Democrat, said in response to questions after the speech.
In his speech, he said the governors’ top priorities were fiscal responsibility, health care, education and job growth.
He later tied immigration reform to improving both education and the economy.
“A number of governors want to make it easier for immigrants to come here for education, and to stay here and add to the job force,” he said, echoing calls to retain highly educated foreign-born graduates for the U.S. job market. For instance, the Greater Boston Chamber has launched an immigration reform coalition that proposes “STEM Graduate Cards” as permanent visas for immigrants who graduate from a U.S. university with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.
Fallin, a Republican, agreed that immigration is a federal issue with no overall strategy in place at the state level.
“Right now, it’s on a state-by-state basis,” she said.
The Obama administration announced last week a new waiver that allows undocumented immigrants with American relatives to remain in the country for a longer period of time before returning to their countries to obtain legal visas.
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., a former immigration attorney, has vowed to challenge Democratic immigration reform proposals.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, already has proposed a bill in the new Congress that would change the definition of citizenship in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The measure would change the law so that American-born children of immigrants no longer would receive automatic citizenship simply because of their birth location.