It's time for Congress and the president to enact comprehensive immigration reform. And it's time for Republicans to shift their position on the issue, indeed not only embracing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but championing the cause. Doing so is the right thing to do, and it is consistent with the history and core values of the party of Lincoln and Reagan.
The Grand Old Party has long stood for opportunity and against tyranny. Republican defense of free markets and limited government has helped create economic opportunities and prosperity unlike any other country in the world.
These opportunities have attracted families to America who flee the economies of more intrusive, restrictive governments they leave behind. They are, as immigrants have been through America's history, grateful neighbors who bring a strong work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit to their adopted home country.
Unfortunately, the federal government has failed its responsibilities for managing immigration controls and policy, and as a result has placed Californians in an unacceptable position. By inaction in Washington, we are essentially asked to ignore our undocumented neighbors - many of whom are my constituents - and simply pretend they are not there. This simply cannot continue.
Our nation needs to acknowledge these families and offer them an official, legal stake in America's future, along with the duties and obligations of becoming full taxpayers and citizens. And Republicans, including this author, must make a policy paradigm shift that is consistent with the bold origins and values of our party. It is our destiny to lead this effort, signaling for the next generation of Americans that Republicans are the party for prosperity and opportunity.
Creating a real pathway to citizenship for undocumented families isn't a handout. It is a renewal of the historic immigration policies that made American great. Republican President Ronald Reagan understood this principle when he signed the Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Reform Act into law in 1986. The fact that today, the states with the fastest rate of immigration growth - such as North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah - also disburse the lowest levels of state government assistance to immigrants, confirms that the vast majority of immigrants are not looking for handouts, they are looking for work.
We must settle the status of children brought to this country by their parents as illegal immigrants and offer citizenship to non-citizen veterans who have served honorably in the U.S. military. These new Californians will work toward eventually becoming citizens while holding jobs, opening new businesses and earning their education. In all, we have an opportunity to create new taxpaying residents and citizens who can help us financially support public education, strengthen public safety services and improve the quality of life in California.
Federal reforms should grant states greater flexibility and authority over some immigration issues. New laws should include specific incentives for personal responsibility, to welcome those who have come here to work and obey the law, while discouraging those who are seeking immediate government benefits. Reform should also place as a priority those applicants who are already currently engaged in the legal process of immigration over those who circumvented laws to travel here. And lastly, our nation's legal immigration process must be expanded, expedited and improved.
America's great immigration boom of 1880-1920 occurred under the leadership of farsighted Republican leaders like President Theodore Roosevelt. The sons and daughters of these immigrants became our World War II generation, or America's "Greatest Generation," who fought to win civil rights at home and defeat tyranny overseas. Today, immigration reform can be a powerful source of economic renewal for 21st century America.
I am committed to building consensus on the issue here in California. I call on Republicans across the nation to return to the roots of our party and the causes of its founder, Abraham Lincoln, by making liberty and economic opportunity the twin beacons that unite and guide a painfully divided nation.