By: Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Joaquin Castro and Rep. Joe Garcia
For over a decade, Congress has failed to fix what we all agree is a broken immigration system. Congress has been complacent -- standing by as families are torn apart and important business sectors go without the workers they need to grow our economy. While both the House and Senate are hammering out immigration reform legislation, the members of the New Democrat Coalition believe it is important to outline the needed building blocks for meaningful immigration reform.
As members of the New Democrat Coalition, we believe successful immigration reform begins with four basic principles: growth, efficiency, fairness, and inclusion. If we want to compete in a global economy, we must understand how immigration can benefit and grow our economy. Those who decide to leave their country in search of a better future for themselves and their families are risk-takers. We should embrace those risk-takers, because it is them and their children who are growing small businesses and have established 40 percent of today's Fortune 500 companies.
We must prioritize strengthening our economy as part of immigration reform. That means spurring innovation by creating a start-up visa for entrepreneurs, recruiting and retaining more individuals with a STEM education and ensuring that investors and high-skilled workers are not only able to come here to work, but able to make the United States their home.
The New Democrat Coalition also understands that not every entrepreneur will have a graduate degree in science or math or come to this country through employment-based visas. Many of the entrepreneurs who have created jobs for American workers -- like the founders of Google, Intel and Yahoo!-- did not come to this country on employment-based visas. We believe it is critical that any immigration reform package reforms employment-based immigration and respects our nation's long-standing commitment to family unification and family-based immigration system.
We must also strive to create a more efficient immigration system. In order to do so, we must eliminate bureaucratic visa backlogs, which impede growth and separate families. It is critical that the United States be able to adapt our immigration policies to changing economic needs and fill legitimate gaps in our workforce - both in terms of seasonal and long-term labor in industries like agriculture that depend on immigrant workers with specialized skills.
Smart enforcement means investments in infrastructure and resources that will curb unauthorized immigration and the flow of illicit goods, while enhancing legal trade, travel, and tourism. While border security should ensure our safety, it must also create an efficient gateway for transnational commerce and travel. In fiscal year 2012, more than $2.3 trillion in trade passed through America's ports of entry, while over 350 million travelers visited the United States, supporting 10 million American jobs. We support provisions to include faster and safer processing of tourist visas and allocate resources to invest in necessary personnel, infrastructure and security improvements. Additionally, given the billions of dollars allocated, we believe in creating metrics of progress in terms of security, as well as measurements of efficiency as it relates to the legal flow of goods and people at our borders and ports.
The New Democrat Coalition also wants to ensure that the implementation of any mandatory employment verification system is not an unfair burden on employers, especially small and rural businesses. Employment verification will create another hoop that every American must go through to gain employment. While we support efforts to expand employment verification system, we must address concerns of accuracy, the need for due process for authorized workers misidentified by the system and provisions to reduce the burden on employers.
The aspect of immigration reform that has arguably received the most attention is the need for undocumented immigrants who want to make right by the law and contribute to our country to be able to participate more fully in our society. The New Democrat Coalition believes that we as a country should provide hard-working undocumented immigrants in our communities the opportunity to work toward permanent residency with a path to earned citizenship within a reasonable time frame. We also believe in the need to prioritize immigrant integration, with a focus on making English, American civics classes and naturalization more accessible for new Americans.
We cannot hope to put a stop to unlawful immigration until we create a system for legal immigration that works and a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants who call this country home. While we have addressed our hopes for an immigration reform package, what is most important to our caucus is the need to reflect our values as Americans, focusing on growing our economy, reuniting families and ensuring that immigrant communities can successfully integrate and fully participate in our communities, economy, and civil society.