Tennessean: Tennessee Republicans skeptical of president's immigration plan

Posted on July 1, 2010

WASHINGTON -- Republican members of the Middle Tennessee congressional delegation reacted with skepticism Thursday to President Barack Obama's renewed call for comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year.

"The president would be well-advised to follow the model that has broad bipartisan support in the House — secure the border first, deport criminal aliens, and finally, build an immigration system that works," Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood said after Obama delivered a speech on immigration to students at American University.

In June, Blackburn and other GOP members of the Reclaim American Jobs Caucus wrote Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., criticizing the administration's attempts to challenge Arizona's tough new anti-immigration law. 

Sen. Lamar Alexander reacted to Obama's speech by repeating his earlier criticisms of the administration's approach to health care reform and financial regulatory reform — that massive, comprehensive government overhauls don't work. 

"The president should work with Congress on a step-by-step approach that starts with securing the border," Alexander said. 

He was among a bipartisan group of senators who met with Obama at the White House Tuesday to discuss climate change and immigration reform legislation. Nothing came of that meeting

Earlier, Alexander, the No. 3 GOP leader in the Senate, warned that any attempt by Senate Democrats to push comprehensive immigration reform likely would make their expected losses in the fall election even worse. 

Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville did not have an immediate reaction to Obama's speech. His spokesman, Jim Boogaard, said Cooper was on the House floor when Obama spoke. 

The Pew Hispanic Center estimated there were 150,000 illegal immigrants living in Tennessee in 2008.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker said the American people will support new immigration legislation only when the government can proof it can enforce it.