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Immigration


Our current immigration system is broken, and the evidence pointing to as much is overwhelming.  Currently, there are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  Because these immigrants are here undocumented, and are consequently outside the scope of the law, we often do not know who they are or the activities in which they are engaged.  There are also immigrants who attempt to come to this country by legal means and find themselves wrapped up in endless paperwork and bureaucracy, and in turn, live in the United States unauthorized.  The result of these failures is a system that encourages people to break the law, and punishes those who follow it.  To be clear, as we work to fix this broken system, I do not support granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.  We need immigration reform that respects the rule of law, and is fair to those immigrants who have played by the rules.

We need an immigration system that upholds the rule of law and helps our economy grow.  It is my belief that we should consider important immigration issues in separate bills – this way, the American people can see what we are doing, and Members of Congress will know exactly what they are voting on.  With that in mind, I believe there are four principles that should guide immigration reform efforts during the 115th Congress:

My Principles for Reform

  • First, we need to secure the border.  We can’t have a secure country without a secure border.

  • Second, we need to enforce our laws.  Otherwise, we will repeat the mistakes of the past.

  • Third, we need to encourage legal immigration.  We need a guest-worker program that meets the needs of our economy, and we need to attract the best and brightest to our shores.

  • Fourth, we need to give people a chance to get right with the law.  We should welcome anyone who is committed to America.  But, we should always uphold the rule of law—and be fair to those who followed it.  To be clear, no amnesty should be provided.

The Border

Americans know our borders are not secure – and so do criminals, drug cartels, and potential terrorists.  The surge of illicit traffic across our borders has destabilized communities and damaged our national security.  We must show unwavering determination to fix this crisis permanently.  Our goal is to develop a complete understanding of what is happening at the border, and deploy cutting-edge tools to stop illegal traffic.  We need more than just fencing – we need a strong, multi-layered approach to not only halt illicit activity, but discourage it entirely.  America must send a clear message: any person who tries to enter our country illegally will be detained and face the full force of the law – without exception.

Securing the border is no small task, but it is a fundamental responsibility of our government.  On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order entitled, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.”  This executive order states that it is the policy of the executive branch to secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border.  The wall is to be monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.

This executive order affirms the intent of Congress and the letter of the law with regard to the construction of such a physical barrier by citing the Secure Fence Act of 2006.  Signed into law by former President George W. Bush on October 26, 2006, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to determine which actions are necessary and appropriate to achieve and maintain control over the borders of the United States – including “physical infrastructure enhancements” and “reinforced fencing.”  It is worth noting that, when this bill passed the Senate in bipartisan fashion on September 29, 2006, former Senator and former President Obama, former Senator Hillary Clinton, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer all voted in favor of final passage.  

President Trump’s executive order is about keeping Americans safe.  House Republicans are committed to working with the administration to stop the influx of illegal immigration along the southern border, protect our homeland, and uphold the rule of law.

Enforcement

Entry/Exit Visa Tracking:  Visa overstays make up about 40 percent of the undocumented immigrants in our country today.  We need to know who is in our country and why.  It is a matter of national security.  We need a modernized system to track the entry and exit of tourists, foreign students, diplomats, temporary workers, and others who come here on a temporary visa.

Workplace Security:  We also need a mandatory employment-verification system.  Employers should be able to determine an employee’s legal status in a timely manner.  The current verification process is cumbersome and ineffective, and encourages the use of fraudulent documents and puts people at the risk of identity theft.  Any verification system must be safe, secure, and prompt.

Legal Immigration

Hundreds of thousands of people cross the border illegally each year.  If our immigration system worked, economic immigrants—those that want to come to contribute to our economy—wouldn’t have to “jump the fence.”  Instead, they would use the front door.  Bringing our security vetting into the digital age would allow the border patrol to focus our resources on apprehending the criminal immigrants—those seeking to smuggle drugs and weapons or conduct criminal activity in the U.S.

Guest-Worker Programs:  We need to permit immigrants to come here legally.  Employers should be able to hire workers on a temporary or seasonal basis when they can’t find Americans to fill the jobs.  Wisconsin, for instance, relies on seasonal labor for agriculture and other industries, but due to a lack of seasonal H-2B visas, some Wisconsin businesses face annual labor shortfalls.  If we can link legal immigrants with small businesses, we can help spur economic growth.

High-Tech Visas:  One of every six international students is educated in the U.S.  We educate some of the best students in the world—especially in fields like science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  And, after we invest our time and resources into developing their skills, we send them back to their home countries.  Instead, we should find ways for them to stay so we can benefit from their education and put their skills to work to better our economy.  Over the past 10 years, jobs in STEM fields grew three times as quickly as those in other fields, and they are projected to grow more than twice as fast through 2018.  American employers worry they will have a shortage of high-skilled workers.  We need to enable employers to hire foreign graduates of American universities.  That way, they will use their American education for the betterment of the U.S.—not our foreign competitors.  But, to make sure American workers get a fair shot at these jobs, we should require sponsors of foreign workers to complete labor certifications to ensure that foreign workers are not displacing equally qualified American workers.

Merit-Based Reform:  Most countries use immigration to strengthen their economies — but we don’t.  In the U.S., less than fifteen percent of green cards went to work-based immigrants in 2015, but the vast majority of visas in other countries, like Canada and Australia, are directly aimed at work-based immigrants that can boost their economies.  We often give out visas based primarily on people’s family connections, not their talents or skills.  Consequently, we are missing out and falling behind.  Family unification is important, but we need to move toward a merit-based system that allows us to bring in the best and the brightest and those that meet specific economic needs. 

A Chance to Get Right with the Law

A conservative deals with the world as it is—not how it should be.  Past administrations should have enforced the law, but they have not.  Now, we need a common-sense plan that moves us forward by addressing the reality of our current situation.  It is vital that we deal with the undocumented immigrant population because as it stands currently, letting these individuals remain here outside of the law equates to de facto amnesty.  We need to invite people to get right with the law—without letting them cut in line.

To start, we need to find a permanent legislative solution for participants, often referred to as “DREAMers,” of the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program.

On June 15, 2012, former President Obama announced the establishment of the DACA program, unilaterally granting deferred action for certain individuals who were brought to the United States as children by parents who had entered the country illegally.  The intent behind the creation of the program was to allow eligible individuals who did not present a risk to national security or public safety to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.  However well-intentioned, though, the former president’s establishment of the DACA program was a clear abuse of executive authority – an attempt to essentially create law out of thin air – and the Constitution is explicit in regard to the separation of powers: Congress writes the laws, not the president.

On September 5, 2017, President Trump issued a directive to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to initiate an orderly phase out of DACA, with a limited, six-month window during which the department will consider certain requests for DACA and applications for work authorization in accordance with specific parameters outlined by Elaine Duke, the Acting Secretary of DHS.  That same day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced no renewal applications would be accepted after October 5, 2017, and that any permits set to expire after March 5, 2018 could not be renewed.  

The President’s announcement restores the proper role of the legislative and executive branches.  In fact, his statement explicitly states, “As President, my highest duty is to defend the American people and the Constitution of the United States of America.  At the same time, I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents.  But we must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”

Then, on January 9, 2018, in The Regents of the University of California and Janet Napolitano v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Elaine Duke, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered the administration to resume accepting renewal applications for DREAMers.  According to the ruling released by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, DHS was “not in accordance with the law” in its initiation of the rescission of DACA because it was based on the “flawed” legal premise that the agency lacked specific implementation authority.  The district court cites the 2014 Office of Legal Counsel of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) determination that programmatic deferred action is a permissible exercise of the enforcement discretion of DHS to substantiate its decision that DACA falls within the enforcement authority of DHS.

The DOJ responded on January 16, 2018, by filing a notice of appeal in the case, thereby seeking review before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  The Department also expressed its intention to file a petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment in order to seek the direct review in the Supreme Court.  Attorney General Sessions stated, “It defies both law and common sense for DACA – an entirely discretionary non-enforcement policy that was implemented unilaterally by the last administration after Congress rejected similar legislative proposals and courts invalidated the similar Deferred Action of Parents of Americans policy – to somehow be mandated nationwide by a side district court in San Francisco.  We are now taking the rare step of requesting direct review on the merits of this injunction by the Supreme Court so that this issue may be resolved quickly and fairly for all the parties involved.”

In the interim, it is important to keep in mind that young people – who came into this country through no fault of their own – are at the heart of this issue.  For many of them, the United States is the only country they have ever known.  The status of these individuals is a complex matter, involving many immigration issues, such as border security and interior enforcement, that previous Congresses have failed to adequately address over the years.  I plan to ensure that Congress, with the President’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this wonderful country.

We also have to address the rest of the undocumented population, and in doing so, should not prevent immigrants from ever earning citizenship.  At the same time, we shouldn’t insist on it either.  There already is a path to citizenship—it’s the current legal immigration system.  We certainly should fix it, but we should not offer them citizenship on terms that are different from anyone else who wants to come here.

To be clear, however, immigration legislation must provide the necessary tools and resources to secure our border and ensure we don’t find ourselves back in this position years from now.  This means we must achieve operational control and situational awareness of the border, implement reforms and ensure funding to swiftly process those apprehended crossing the border and safely return them to their home countries, and fully implement an employment verification system and an entry/exit visa tracking system.

Conclusion

In order to achieve a lasting and permanent solution to our broken immigration system, we must secure the border, enforce our laws, and fix our immigration system.  That means we need tough border security and enforcement measures that will deter future illegal immigration.  We need to modernize our visa programs to ensure people who want to come legally can do so.  And we need to ensure that no one can work here unless they have legal status.  In the past, I have supported initiatives that would have accomplished these goals, and I will continue to do so as my colleagues and I consider legislation in the 115th Congress.

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