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Column - Closing the Gaps of Immigration Reform

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Today, more than 11 million people illegally live in America. That's almost six times the size of Nebraska's entire population. You can bet that number grows each day because of our porous, insecure southern border.

There's no doubt our current immigration system is broken, and there's no doubt that fixing it will be a monumental task. For several months now, a bipartisan group of eight senators, commonly known as the "Gang of Eight," has worked hard to come up with a proposal to modernize our nation's immigration system and create new policies that will have implications for virtually every community in America. So it is important for the other 92 senators to have a say in this discussion, and offer their suggestions to improve the current proposal.

Any solution to our flawed immigration system must start with border security. Unfortunately, the current proposal fails to ensure this fundamental requirement, and in fact, allows the Obama Administration to simply declare the border secure. That's why I have supported a number of amendments to ensure we have full control over who enters our country.

One amendment, introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.), requires measurable assurance that our border is under control. It increases the number of Border Patrol and Customs Officers by 10,000, provides for new tools to efficiently and effectively monitor border weaknesses and points of entry and prevents illegal immigrants who have committed violent crimes from obtaining legal status.

I am the lead cosponsor of another bipartisan amendment introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), which helps secure our border while creating jobs for our highly skilled military servicemembers and returning veterans. It provides incentives, such as student loan assistance, to members of the National Guard and Reserves, as well as former members of the military who choose to bring their security expertise to the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies. This amendment allows our current and former military heroes to utilize their battlefield skills to protect America right here at home.

These are just a couple of examples of how the current proposal can and should be improved, with many more likely to come. Like our current border situation, the proposal before the Senate has many weaknesses which must be addressed before our border is truly secure and our immigration system is improved. The only way to do this is an open and robust debate that allows for votes on ideas from both Republicans and Democrats. Any effort to prevent such a discussion will only result in another failed attempt to rectify the problems facing America's immigration system. We have an opportunity now to get this right for our nation, but it's going to require input from lawmakers from across party lines and across the country. There is no room for politics in a debate with many far-reaching consequences.


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