Moderated by Rick Badie
Immigration reform appears to have hit a roadblock in Congress. Some Democrat and Republican representatives are at odds over whether a pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million illegal immigrants should be part of any comprehensive legislation. Today, two Georgia congressmen offer their views on the matter.
No back-door amnesty
By Phil Gingrey
Our country’s immigration system is in dire straits. It’s been described as “broken,” but in reality it has all but collapsed. Georgians see the disastrous effects of this firsthand. It has the seventh-highest illegal immigrant population in the country, an enormous strain on taxpayers and families.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration refuses to enforce existing law, has granted back-door amnesty to certain categories of illegal immigrants and has admitted it has no way to measure border security.
The Senate’s approach is a short-sighted mistake. Illegal immigration is one of the biggest crises facing our nation. Amnesty is not the solution. The Senate bill would legalize millions who have “jumped the line” and do nothing to stem the tide of illegal immigration.
It also includes provisions that would allow those previously deported to apply for re-entry. It almost entirely ignores interior enforcement. Interior enforcement includes identifying and removing individuals with expired visas. It’s estimated 40 percent of U.S. illegal immigrants are visa overstays. Without interior enforcement, there is absolutely no incentive for immigrants to follow the law and leave the country once their visas expire.
Most importantly, the bill fails to secure the border, the single most important element of addressing our illegal immigration problem. It would cede border enforcement to unaccountable bureaucrats and allow portions of the law to be written by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. This approach is similar to another “comprehensive” bill rushed through Congress — the Affordable Care Act.
We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of Obamacare. We are witnessing fallout from lawmakers who rammed a massive bill through Congress. The Senate has taken the same pass-it-to-see-what’s-in-it tack with immigration.
We need real solutions to fix our nation’s immigration crisis. For example, verifying a potential employee’s legal status is essential to protecting American jobs. Georgia state law requires employers to use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of new hires. I’ve introduced similar federal legislation.
Two of the most prevalent abuses of our current system include “chain migration” and “birth tourism.” Both must be eliminated. Under current law, “chain migration” allows one legal immigrant to serve as the basis for hundreds of extended family members. “Birth tourism” is the practice of traveling to the United States or other countries with birthright citizenship laws to have a baby.
I recently introduced the strongest border bill in Congress, the SMART Border Act. It requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to achieve operational control of the border within one year, and to hire 1,500 new Customs and Border Patrol agents if DHS fails to meet that goal.
We need a step-by-step approach to address this complex issue. Stakeholders and constituents deserve transparency and access to these proceedings. Lawmakers must be given ample time to carefully review each piece of legislation. Only in this manner will we truly reform our immigration system while protecting American workers, taxpayers and families.
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey represents Georgia’s 11th Congressional District.
Reform requires citizenship
By Hank Johnson Jr.
“Immigration reform will not occur until conservative Republicans become part of the solution. If you (immigrants) wish to work and live in America, then we will find a place for you.” — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
“I think all of us know that we don’t want a class of residents that will never be offered an opportunity for citizenship.” — Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
It’s not often I agree with my conservative friends on the other side of aisle. In this case, I couldn’t agree more: Immigration reform must include citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants. Let’s put aside our differences and work in a bipartisan way to get this job done.
Immigration has reinvigorated America’s workforce, economy, society and culture. Each wave of newcomers brings hope, optimism and determination in pursuing the American Dream. Each wave makes America more diverse and stronger.
We currently have 11 million among us, including 400,000 here in Georgia, who are forced into the shadows of second-class status. No matter how they came here, they are here. We must acknowledge them.
By not establishing a clear pathway to citizenship, we are telling our mostly Latino brothers and sisters that you can cut our lawns, clean for us, cook for us and provide child care for us, but you can never become one of us.
Can we truly say as Americans that, “It is well with my soul”? Aren’t we a society that holds truths to be self-evident that all people have rights, no matter where they come from or who they are?
If those opposed to a path to citizenship have no concern for the soul, maybe they can relate to a report from the National Economic Council: Immigration reform will create jobs, boost economic growth, raise wages, increase productivity, reduce the deficit by nearly $850 billion over the next 20 years and strengthen Social Security. A recent Gallup Poll shows 87 percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship.
A bipartisan Senate coalition voted 68 to 32 that a path to citizenship must be part of fixing our immigration system. That Senate coalition represents more than 80 percent of the American people. The Senate did its job. Now it’s the House’s turn.
The Senate bill is comprehensive. It offers an opportunity for an immigrant to become a citizen after passing a criminal background check, paying a penalty, learning English and paying back taxes, while it improves border security and e-verification.
The Senate has delivered. I implore my conservative friends in the House to look to the soul, look to the humanity, look to the smart economic policy of comprehensive immigration reform. We can have open honest debate. You can make your points. You can play to your base. But in the end, we need to do what 87 percent of the American people support.
Let’s work together and get the job done.
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson Jr. represents Georgia’s 4th Congressional District.