Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The vast majority of Americans agree that our immigration system is broken. According to the Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) Annual 2010 report, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) apprehended 517,000 foreign nationals and removed 387,000 foreign nationals from the United States. Nonetheless, it’s estimated that one out of every twenty workers is an illegal immigrant and that between 12 and 13 million illegal immigrants remain nationwide. This issue persists as a result of our flawed immigration and border security system, is an affront to the rule of law, an unacceptable security risk, and an added burden to the current state of the economy. There are deeply held views on all sides of this issue, and rightly so. We are a nation of immigrants, and the vast majority of Americans agree that comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue. Far too many illegal immigrants continue to arrive in the United States, and those attempting to come to the country legally find themselves wrapped in endless paperwork and bureaucracy as a result. This broken immigration system does a disservice to those who play by the rules, rewards those who break them, and fails children who all-too-often fall between the cracks. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it is clear that our current immigration system is not working. However, I do not support amnesty for the millions of illegal immigrants already living in the United States. Any reform proposal must require that those who have disregarded the rule of law are not rewarded for their actions. In the end, I hope that with better border security and a more robust and up-to-date employee verification system, we will be able to stem the flow of illegal immigration and restore the rule of law. DREAM Act The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, H.R. 1842 in the 112th Congress, has been introduced several times in recent years. This bill amends the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to permit states to determine state residency for the purpose of higher education benefits. Additionally, it grants conditional permanent residency to undocumented students who entered the United States as children. While the DREAM Act has been promoted as an alternative to comprehensive reform, and I understand the points that DREAM Act supporters have raised, I believe this legislation attempts to treat a symptom – rather than the root cause – of our current problems. We must first secure the border and stem the flow of illegal immigration, and then work to increase legal immigration through an enforceable guest worker program and by developing a more secure employee verification system. I believe it would be a serious mistake to pursue piecemeal reforms like the DREAM Act without first putting in place these fundamental components of immigration reform. Seasonal Labor I believe that any reforms to immigration policies should include expanding access to visas for seasonal and temporary labor. Wisconsin, for example, has relied on seasonal labor for agriculture and other industries. Due to a lack of seasonal H-2B visas, some Wisconsin businesses face annual labor shortfalls. Allowing for a streamlined, safe, and efficient visa process will provide businesses with needed workers and relieve pressure on the borders. Additionally, I believe a temporary guest worker program is one component of reform that could help us secure our borders and gain greater control of immigration. By providing a way to legally link employers with immigrant workers, we would relieve pressure on the borders from people who are coming here to seek work. This would allow us more time to pursue the people who mean to do us harm—criminals, terrorists, and drug smugglers. A necessary component of a guest worker program is an employee verification system that allows employers to easily and accurately verify an employee’s legal status in a timely manner. The faulty and cumbersome verification process continues to provide incentives for the use of fraudulent documents. To provide a system where employers and employees no longer perpetuate our illegal immigration problem, I believe that there are several principles that must be kept in mind. First and foremost, an employee’s information must be safe from identity theft. Next, any system must be accurate and secure. A verification tool that is easily fabricated will not provide the assurance required that employers are not unintentionally employing illegal aliens. Last, a verification tool must be immediate. It can cause great disruption and difficulties to ordinary Americans if they cannot get the documentation they need from the government. We must ensure that verification occurs immediately, and that employees are able to work and receive their paychecks. New legislation addressing immigration policies should require illegal immigrants seeking a green card or citizenship to leave the United States and reapply for citizenship outside of the U.S., so that they can then re-enter the country legally, thus upholding the rule of law. Proposals like the “Z visa,” which would have allowed an illegal immigrant to stay in America indefinitely through continual renewals, are not an effective way of dealing with the problem. They serve the same purpose as acquiring a green card, without having to leave the country or waiting at the end of the line. In my opinion, this approach amounts to amnesty. Conclusion Although it does not appear likely that a comprehensive immigration bill will be taken up this year, I will continue to advocate for common sense reforms to our broken system. I believe that any immigration reform bill passed by Congress must first include strong border security provisions, an enforceable guest worker program, a secure employee verification system, and a system that does not reward illegal behavior, but provides equitable treatment for all immigrants. 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 112th Congress.