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Blog: Breaking Down the Immigration Debate

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As the immigration debate in the Senate continues, there is one thing we can all agree on -- the current system is broken and needs to be fixed.

We must start with securing our border and enforcing the laws already on the books. We also need to revise our legal immigration system to continue the influx of ideas and innovation that have made America the envy of the world. And we have to do things the right way -- that means tackling the issues in an order that makes sense, starting with securing the border.

Border Security: The current Senate bill would change the status of undocumented immigrants before securing the border. Additionally, in some areas, it even weakens border security laws. The bill's provisions giving unilateral authority to the Obama administration in determining whether the border is secure are also especially troubling, knowing that Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano said in 2011 that the "border is better now than it ever has been."

The lack of a plan to secure the border FIRST is unacceptable, and a major reason I voted against moving forward with the bill last week.

Legal Immigration: It is critically important to fix our legal immigration system. Hi-tech jobs -- scientists, engineers and others -- help to keep America at the forefront of the technological revolution. Agricultural workers also provide important labor for many farms around the country. While the current proposal takes positive steps regarding our legal immigration system, there are still many areas for improvement.

Solutions: I have supported several straightforward, common sense amendments to strengthen the Senate bill over the past few weeks, including:

Grassley Amendment (June 13) -- Requires that the border be effectively secured for six months before any change of status for undocumented immigrants begins
Thune Amendment (June 18) -- Requires construction of 700 miles of double-layered border fence, including 350 miles before any change of status for undocumented immigrants begins
Vitter Amendment (June 18) -- Requires full implementation of the biometric entry/exit system, first required by Congress in 1996, at every land, sea, and air port of entry and passage of a Congressional joint resolution stating that the system has been sufficiently implemented before any change of status for undocumented immigrants begins
Lee Amendment (June 19) -- Requires Congressional approval, as opposed to approval by the Department of Homeland Security, or border and fencing strategies before any change of status for undocumented immigrants begins

In short, if we don't focus on the cause -- lax border security and enforcement of current laws -- we cannot hope to stop the effect. This is a very important issue, and one that requires targeted solutions. We must ensure that 27 years from now, Americans are not looking back on another failed attempt to solve this problem, as we do now with the 1986 immigration reform package.


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