We are a nation of immigrants, but today our immigration system is broken. For too long the federal government has not done enough to secure our borders or enforce immigration laws already on the books. The border situation is even more serious now because it's not just undocumented workers trying to enter the country looking for work but rather organizations seeking to exploit our porous borders to smuggle weapons and drugs into the U.S. In addition, we see the extreme violence taking place just south of us as Mexican drug cartels battle with the Mexican government which have spilled over into the U.S. So, it is imperative that we take serious measures to solve the border problem, not just talk about it.
I strongly object to the President’s choice to bypass Congress and declare administrative amnesty for certain undocumented immigrants. The President’s actions to date have already spurred an unprecedented surge in undocumented immigrants, particularly unaccompanied minors, crossing our southern border. This has strained local infrastructure and law enforcement and unnecessarily burdened federal agencies, costing significant taxpayer dollars. This Administration-made disaster makes clear we cannot solve our immigration problems with arbitrary executive orders.
It is imperative that we gain operational control of the border. Right now the Obama Administration claims it has achieved "effective control" of approximately 936 miles of border. This is not true. Even though Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Secure Fence Act, which I authored, only 36 miles of double-layer fencing and 299 miles of vehicle barriers have been built along the southwest border. The administration says it has no plans for additional fence construction. This is not acceptable. I have cosponsored the Border Security Results Act to implement a 5-year strategy to gain operational control of our borders and oppose any immigration reform legislation that does not first secure our border.
I have also advocated for the designation of certain Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), having cosponsored legislation and urged then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to support this designation. The violence of these cartels has come across our borders, endangering the lives of U.S. citizens. By placing the drug cartels on the FTO list, our law enforcement officers would have additional authorities to limit the cartels’ financial, property, and travel operations.
More needs to be done, however. Illegal immigration is no longer an issue that can be solved just at the border. The federal government must (a) find ways to better meet employer needs by streamlining and expanding U.S. visa programs; (b) require employer use of an electronic employment eligibility verification system (also known as e-verify); and (c) implement biometric entry-exit visa tracking for those who overstay their visas. I have cosponsored E-Verify legislation (H.R. 1772), and supported the STEM Jobs Act (H.R. 6429) to provide green cards to graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Under our current system, we educate scientists and engineers only to send them home to work for our competitors abroad. We should modernize our system to keep that knowledge and talent here at home.
As the grandson of immigrants I strongly believe that immigration is the lifeblood of our nation. Immigrants bring the energy, vitality and initiative which make America such a unique and prosperous nation. Overhauling our broken immigration system by establishing strong border security and bringing immigrants into the American mainstream should be a top priority of this Congress, and I am hopeful that bipartisan negotiations will yield fair and effective laws.