By Rep Dennis Ross
Immigration is important. It is part of our natural heritage and serves as a building block of our society. Almost all of us have family members (perhaps many generations back) who have emigrated here from another country.
The issue we face today as a society isn't whether to allow immigration. The issue is determining what laws are needed and then enforcing those laws.
There are countless heart-wrenching personal stories involving immigration. Many of us have read about families who have been torn apart or we know people who are affected. Our immigration system has failed these people. We, in essence, allow them to stay here because we are hesitant to enforce the laws. Then, after they are here for many years and have become established in a community and start to raise a family, we tell them it's time for them to leave.
It is always tragic when a family is separated. Unfortunately, there are many people who enter our country illegally and now have children who are citizens of the United States. Our system of immigration has failed those people miserably.
It is our responsibility to fix this. We cannot tolerate a system that condones or forgives illegal entry. We must stop it before it occurs.
I don't believe that we should grant amnesty in the form of citizenship as a Band-Aid to cover the issue that there are 11 million immigrants here illegally.
People have made a choice. We can't just wipe the slate clean, especially when there are many people in other countries who have been following our laws and requirements and have been waiting as long as 20 years in some cases to enter the United States legally.
The Senate is debating a comprehensive plan and the House is poised to act on proposals as well. This is a good time to have a long-overdue discussion on immigration.
The best way to address immigration is in an incremental fashion through an open and public process -- looking at multiple facets, including visas, guest worker programs, an E-Verify system and border security.
I support overhauling the bureaucratic visa system. Did you know that immigration officials report that 40 percent of the people who are here in America illegally are on expired visas?
We need a system that tracks both when people come into America and when they leave. We also need to make it easier for people who come here legally on a work visa or education visa to stay here and contribute to our communities and economy, and live the American dream.
We need a temporary guest-worker program.
This year, I introduced the Legal Agricultural Workforce Act. This legislation would allow non-U.S. citizens to participate legally in the agricultural economy of the United States while continuing to provide protections for American workers and taxpayers. This program is vital for states such as Florida that are blessed with a thriving agricultural sector. It would be funded by employers.
We have an optional E-Verify system. This allows companies to check the legal status of potential employees. Our E-Verify system should be mandatory, so long as we provide a parallel guest worker program to meet our workforce demand.
We are a sovereign nation. As such, we must also have operational control of our borders. I have said time and time again that America is a nation blessed by a rich diversity but a unifying heritage. We are a blessed nation of opportunity, but also a nation of laws. Americans of the past and Americans of the future should always wish it to be so.
Having laws and enforcing them is the right thing to do. I sincerely hope that we can work together to make reforms to our immigration system that are both compassionate and justice-oriented.
I have always embraced the American dream. Our nation is made up of immigrants who have come to our country in search of opportunity and a chance at a better future through hard work.
Our immigration system is broken, and together we need to fix it.