The United States has provided countless nationalities a refuge to pursue a better life by regularly granting asylum or permitting various immigrants the opportunity to become American citizens. This country is a nation of former immigrants whose ancestors once came here to provide more opportunities for their children or to escape persecution and danger. However, our current immigration system is in serious need of repair. The average citizenship application processing time for high skilled immigrants such as engineers or scientists can exceed 10 years, yet a growing number of undocumented workers either illegally cross our southern border or overstay temporary work visas every day.
During the first half of the 113th Congress, the Senate passed a package of immigration reforms which attempts to address this issue in one fell sweep, S. 744. The House has said it will not consider S. 744, because any attempts to change immigration policy in this country should be considered in small, gradual reforms, designed to avoid mistakes and maximize success.
Due to the ongoing nature of this debate in the House of Representatives, I cannot predict what type of legislative proposals will be offered on the House Floor, if any at all. Should the House consider addressing this issue in the 113th Congress, I support the piecemeal approach advocated by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and others. This process will allow for a full debate, as the House Committees work step-by-step to fix our broken immigration system. As your Congressman, rest assured I will keep your thoughts in mind as this debate continues.
In addition, the House GOP has outlined standards for immigration reform based on a number of modifications that ensure our nation’s broken immigration policy is addressed in a manner that enforces current laws and does not jeopardize our economy and national security.
These standards of Immigration Reform as outlined by Speaker Boehner are as follows:
- Border Security and Interior Enforcement:
First and foremost, the United States must secure its borders and implement measures to ensure they remain secure. This includes a zero-tolerance policy for those who illegally cross our borders or illegally overstay their visas in the future. This will prevent further Administrations from selectively choosing which policies to enforce and which policies to ignore.
- Entry-Exit Visa Tracking Systems:
On eight separate occasions Congress has required by law an Entry-Exit system to track and monitor foreigners in this country. Previous versions of these laws have called for a biometric system, one that uses state- of the art technology to verify and confirm identity. A path forward must require full implementation of our current laws, including Entry-Exit Visa tracking systems.
- Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement:
The United States must build upon the use of electronic employment verification system, which would streamline the slow and outdated paper based system used by many employers across the country. We must not only seek those who are here illegally, but those who have harbored, aided, and encouraged them to come to this country.
- Fixing the Legal Immigration Process:
As a country of immigrants, we fully understand the role our legal immigration process has in society. However, it is well past time that our legal immigration process moves from a system that focuses on extended family members and the luck of the draw, to a system that favors the economic needs of this country.
Our system must focus on the thousands of highly skilled foreign nationals seeking education, economic opportunity, and jobs that provide for our economy. For too long, we have been educating and training a highly skilled workforce only to export them because of a clogged legal immigration process. Any form of legal immigration must consider the economic impact opening our borders has, especially when we have millions of out of place workers who should never be displaced or disadvantages by foreign workers.
- Identifying Those Living Outside the Law:
Without action, our current immigration system makes no effort to identify those currently living and working in the United States illegally. The prosperity and economic future of this country depends on identifying these individuals and requiring them to make right by the law. This, however, must not call for direct citizenship to individuals here illegally because that would seriously jeopardize our country’s rule of law and be unfair to those currently waiting in the legal immigration process. Any form of immigration must identify those 11 million illegal immigrants estimated to be in this country. In the future, if certain policies and provisions could be properly implemented, including all border security measures, the process for granting these immigrants the ability to live here legally could then be considered. However, this process would call for a number of benchmarks that include detailed background checks, the payment of fines and taxes, and the ability to properly support themselves and their families without access to public benefit. Those who fail to meet the outlined criteria, and those who are criminal aliens, gang members, or sex offenders would be ineligible for legal status.