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Brat, Trammell discuss immigration at Virginia Hispanic Chamber forum
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Brat, Trammell discuss immigration at Virginia Hispanic Chamber forum

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Seventh District Congressional hopefuls and Randolph-Macon College professors Dave Brat and Jack Trammell outlined their views on U.S. immigration policy Tuesday during a gathering of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Nearly two dozen business leaders gathered at the offices of the Challa Law Firm in Glen Allen, hoping to clarify the candidates’ positions on the issues, which ranged from discouraging illegal immigration along the nation’s borders, to expanding visa opportunities for skilled workers and students, to figuring out the best way to deal with the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the country.

Brat, the Republican candidate, catapulted to the Republican nomination by defeating former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, in a primary race that relied, in part, on opposition to congressional proposals to address the issue that suggested a path to citizenship for some immigrants who were in the country illegally.

The first to address the group Tuesday, Brat devoted most of his opening remarks to his economic pitch for free markets, saying the regulatory environment is bringing the U.S. economy to a standstill. He spoke of a need to “skill up” U.S. students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines that are in great demand in the job market, calling the low scores of U.S. students in math and science “a tragedy.”

When it came to the issue at hand, however, the candidate repeatedly invoked a theme that the immigration problem in the country needs to be addressed by securing the border and enforcing the “rule of law” that is currently in place to handle immigrants, legal and illegal.

“I have never said I’m against legal immigration,” Brat said, adding later: “Nations that function under the rule of law do well.”

Returning to the “rule of law” was Brat’s answer to the question of what to do with the millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the country, as well as a question Hispanic Chamber President Michel Zajur asked about the current immigration proposals being debated by Republicans and Democrats.

On the issue of illegal immigrant children, Brat said the compassionate thing is for the U.S. not to be “putting up green lights” and “incentivizing” children from other countries to come here illegally and at their own peril.

Trammell, the Democrat who entered the race near the end of the filing deadline in June, addressed the group following Brat’s departure. He held what he called the current “do nothing” Congress responsible for failing to reach a compromise to address the immigration issue.

Speaking directly to the issue, he said he favors comprehensive immigration reform, “not piecemeal immigration reform.” He said he supports the DREAM Act, and a “clear path to citizenship” for immigrants.

Like Brat, Trammell said he supports securing the borders, but added that it should be a “rational border policy that is enforceable.”

“I think the last thing we need is a wall,” said Trammell, who also said he supports expanded visas for highly skilled workers, as well as expanded visas for lower-skilled workers where it is documented that there is a “vacuum” that requires them in the workforce.

Trammell said the country should be welcoming to people who are here to “be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” but said the U.S. should deport criminals who are here illegally.

Asked about immigrant children who are here illegally, Trammell said: “I don’t know why we wouldn’t try to take care of the kids who are here. We need to look out for their best interests.”

jnolan@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6061

@RTDNolan

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