Our federal immigration system is badly broken. This broken system has produced dysfunctional outcomes. It has created an unsustainable situation where thousands of people cross our southern border illegally each day while, at the same time, we continue to see shortages in much needed occupations such as doctors, scientists, engineers, and agricultural workers. And, on the flip side, the fact that we do not have good, strong, workable federal immigration laws is now causing states to pass inconsistent laws that create havoc for employers and law enforcement.
That is why I believe we must act as soon as possible to repair our broken immigration system.
The American people have been clear. Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration. They know that, throughout our history, immigrants have contributed to making this country more vibrant and economically dynamic. Once it is clear that in 20 years our nation will not again confront the specter of another 11 million people coming here illegally, Americans will embrace more welcoming immigration policies. After many meetings with constituents, stakeholders, and other members of Congress, I truly believe that the fundamentals for immigration reform exist if we coalesce around seven key principles that the American people overwhelmingly support.
- Illegal immigration is wrong, and a primary goal of immigration reform must be to dramatically curtail future illegal immigration.
- Operational control of our borders--through significant additional increases in infrastructure, technology, and border personnel--must be achieved.
- A biometric-based employer verification system—with tough enforcement and auditing using a fraud-proof social security card—is necessary to significantly diminish the job magnet that attracts illegal aliens to the United States and to provide certainty and simplicity for employers.
- All illegal immigrants present in the United States on the date of enactment of reform legislation must quickly register their presence with the United States Government—and submit to a rigorous 8-year process of earning legal status by submitting to background check, paying taxes, learning English and Civics, and submitting to penalties for their conduct—or face imminent deportation.
- Family reunification is a cornerstone value of our immigration system. By dramatically reducing illegal immigration, we will create more room for both family immigration and employment-based immigration.
- We must encourage the world’s best and brightest individuals to come to the United States and create the new technologies and businesses that will employ countless American workers, but must discourage businesses from using our immigration laws as a means to obtain temporary and less-expensive foreign labor to replace capable American workers.
- We must create a legal immigration system that ends the current flow of low-skilled illegal immigrants into the United States and creates a more manageable and controlled flow of legal immigrants who can be absorbed by our economy at times when workers are needed.
I recently wrote and passed The Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R.6080/S.3721). This act provided over $600 million of reinforcements for border security. The funds were used to hire 1,000 new Border Patrol agents to permanently patrol our southern border and 250 new agents for our ports of entry. It created a “strike force” that can be deployed in different areas of the southwest border depending on where the need is greatest at any particular moment. It provided funds to deploy unmanned drones to fly along our southern border and provide our patrol officers on the ground with real-time information on unlawful border crossings. The bill also provided funds to: improve communications capabilities between federal border enforcement and state and local officers along the border; construct forward operating bases for the border patrol to use that are actually located on the border itself rather than hundreds of miles away; give Immigration and Customs Enforcement resources to conduct investigations of drug-runners, money-launderers, and human traffickers along our border; and increase the number of ATF
, and FBI
agents on our border and bolster the number of prosecutors and court resources along our border so that wrongdoers can immediately be brought to justice.
The best part of this border package is that it was fully paid for through visa fees on abusers of temporary worker programs and does not increase the deficit by a single penny.
Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy
I recently wrote and passed the Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy Act of (H.R.4748/S.3467). This law amended the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2006 to require the Director of National Drug Control Policy, not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act and every two years thereafter, to develop and submit to specified congressional committees a Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy. It requires such Strategy to:
Fighting Mexican Drug Cartels
- Set forth the strategy of the federal government for preventing the illegal trafficking of drugs across the international border between the United States and Canada, including through and between ports of entry.
- State the specific roles and responsibilities of each relevant National Drug Control Program agency for implementing the strategy.
- Identify the specific resources required to enable the relevant agencies to implement the strategy.
- Reflect the unique nature of small communities along the border, ongoing cooperation and coordination with Canadian law enforcement authorities, and variations in the volumes of vehicles and pedestrians crossing through ports of entry along the border.
- Include a strategy to end the illegal trafficking of drugs to or through Indian reservations on or near the border
After sustained advocacy, I convinced the Obama administration to provide broader arrest authority to immigration agents stationed along the U.S. border to combat drug and weapons smugglers. My office pressed for the expanded authority to be given to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
officers after meeting with the head of that agency, John Morton. ICE previously had its arrest powers limited to immigration crimes despite being the nation’s lead enforcement agency stationed along the border. In order to take on the drug cartels in a more coordinated way and crack down on all of these illegal trades, ICE needed drug-arrest powers, or so-called “Title 21” authority, as almost all state and local law enforcement officials have.
Combating Companies Who Abuse Immigration Visas in Order to Outsource American High-Tech Jobs
I drafted and enacted legislation that raised immigration visa fees for companies who try to exploit loopholes in our immigration system in order to employ the vast majority of their workers on foreign work-visas. These companies staff their foreign workers to companies in America and take away good-paying jobs that can easily be taken by Americans. By raising these fees, I ensured that hard-working Americans wishing to perform these high-tech jobs will not be undersold by foreign labor and that foreign labor is only used as a last resort when American workers are truly unavailable to fill open jobs.
Reducing Visa Overstays
Upon advocating for changes in policy to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
, the Department agreed to begin installing electronic readers at airports to determine the authenticity of identifications used by passengers seeking to board airplanes. These readers will help to reduce the risk posed by potential terrorists using fake identifications that are not detected by airport screeners. Secretary Napolitano also agreed with my suggestion that these readers should also have the capability to screen identifications against terrorist watch lists and record the exit of foreigners leaving the United States so that visa overstays can be reduced.
Improving the Security of U.S. Passports
I improved the security of U.S passports by demanding that the Government Printing Office
halt overseas production of electronic chips used in American passports. My actions followed a joint investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity which revealed a years-long failure by the agency to resolve persistent concerns about the security risks involved in the outsourcing. As a result of my efforts, the GPO announced that it would stop production of electronic passport components assembled at a factory in Thailand, which is considered the key piece of the nation's new, more sophisticated E-Passport. These chips will now be produced in the United States, which will create jobs for Americans and improve our security.