My Priorities for Immigration Reform
This week, a bipartisan group of Senators will release a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. And sometime soon, a bipartisan group from the House of Representatives will release their own proposal. These proposals are just that--proposals. We don't yet know what kind of legislation will come before Congress for a vote.
Although I'm still waiting to learn the details of each plan, I want you to know where I stand on this issue. I think that for any immigration reform to stand, it will have to have four strong legs: border security, lottery reform, guest workers, and respect for the rule of law when considering the approximately 11 million undocumented illegal immigrants already in our country.
First and foremost is border security. In Texas, we live in a border state, so we understand first hand why it's important to close our borders to trafficking and dangerous activities. Second, we need to change the way we admit legal immigrants to our country. Instead of a lottery system that admits people at random, we should recruit the best and brightest talent in the world to work for our companies and grow our economy. Third, we need a guest worker program that meets the needs of our agricultural employers. Agriculture requires seasonal labor, and many immigrants are willing to provide that labor and then return home in the off-season. Finally, I believe that any proposal to address the illegal immigrants already in our country must honor our country's respect for the rule of law. It would not be right to let people who came here illegally have the same access to the benefits of citizenship as those who patiently navigated the system.
I had a great meeting last week with some community leaders in Lubbock on this topic. I'll update you on immigration reform as we know more, and please share your thoughts on this by emailing me.
Preventing Higher Air Travel Fees
It's already April, and President Obama still hasn't submitted his 2014 budget, which was due back in February. But while we wait for him to meet his overdue deadlines, we can proactively work to oppose some policies that he'll likely propose. In his past two budgets, the President has suggested imposing a $100 "departure tax" on every commercial flight. Guess who will end up paying that tax? That's right--you.
So I just signed on to a bipartisan letter to President Obama opposing this new tax. In 2011, airline taxes and fees averaged about $60 for each passenger on a round-trip flight. Adding yet another government fee will make travel more expensive for everyone. A study by the Aviation Institute predicted that this fee, combined with other government taxes, would remove about $690 million from the Texas economy. That's because more federal fees decrease airline service to our cities, and reduce air travel by passengers. We simply can't afford that. I'll keep monitoring this issue, and you can be sure that I'll work to prevent any more taxes from being included in your airline tickets.
Morning After Pill Available Over-the-Counter for Minors
Last week, a Federal judge ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lift all age restrictions on emergency contraception pills. Previously, girls under the age of 17 needed a prescription to access this contraceptive. But now, this drug, commonly called the "morning after pill," would be available without a prescription to anyone of any age--including girls as young as ten years old. I think this is outrageous. The judge ruled that the morning after pill should be treated the same as any other drug: if it meets certain standards for safe and effective use, it should be sold over the counter. But this isn't aspirin we're talking about. Taking the morning after pill is tantamount to abortion. We're now putting that decision in the hands of children who can't legally drive a car yet. The world is upside-down when fifth graders can be punished for playing with toy guns at the same time they're given access to a drug that can take a life. If you're as upset as I am about this issue, I want to hear from you. Email me and let me know what you think should be done about this.
I'm back in Washington this week, where I'll be voting on energy legislation and a bill regarding the National Labor Relations Board. I'm also meeting with the Texas Farm Bureau about the prospects for a five-year Farm Bill. Look for the House Agriculture Committee to take up that legislation later this spring.