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Right now Congress is engaged in a serious debate on immigration reform. In the House of Representatives, we are taking a step-by-step approach to methodically review each component of immigration reform in detail. While the Senate has produced their own bill, I believe it is fundamentally flawed and unworkable because it repeats the mistakes of the past and does not guarantee the enforcement of our immigration laws.
Since the beginning of the year, the House Judiciary Committee, which I chair, has convened nearly a dozen hearings on immigration, focusing on the areas of our laws that need to be fixed. As I have emphasized throughout this entire process, enforcement is the first, and most important, step. Any immigration reform must first strengthen border security and the interior enforcement of our immigration laws – without it we are bound to repeat the mistakes of past reform efforts.
The Committee has approved four bills that address various problems within our immigration system, starting with enforcement. The SAFE Act takes away the enforcement “on/off” switch from the President by granting states the authority to enforce immigration laws in the future. We’ve also passed the Legal Workforce Act as another means to discourage illegal immigration. This bill rolls out the web-based E-Verify system nationwide so that American employers have an accurate way to make sure their new employees are actually allowed to work in the U.S.
The Committee has also approved the SKILLS Visa Act. This bill makes our immigration system smarter by replacing immigration programs, like a lottery that awards visas based purely on the luck of the draw, with ones that will benefit the U.S., create jobs for American workers, and make us more competitive in the global economy. We’ve also passed the AG Act, which provides farmers with access to a reliable and legal workforce.
These four bills are important to the immigration debate, but there are still many issues left to address. The Judiciary Committee will continue working to find solutions to create a workable immigration system for the years to come.
The way forward on immigration reform is much like buying a new home. You wouldn’t buy a new home for your family by just surveying it from the outside. You would go room by room, conducting a thorough inspection, and examine the foundation to ensure that it will keep your home on solid footing. You would look for any flaws and determine if they could be corrected before you finalize the purchase. That’s the common sense approach. The same should be said for any immigration reform legislation that’s produced by Congress.
By taking a step-by-step approach to immigration reform, we will help ensure that the end result is a real solution that will fix our broken immigration system for good. I am focused on taking this process through “regular order,” which means allowing for hearings and markups by the committees of jurisdiction. We must not rush to legislate – we need to thoroughly examine each component to avoid past mistakes. Immigration reform isn’t a race; rather, it’s about getting it right.