I will be voting no on the Senate's Gang of Eight immigration bill, because the legislation does not secure the border first.
I think we desperately need immigration reform. Unfortunately, this legislation does not give us serious reform.
Of paramount concern is what to do with the 12 million people currently residing in the U.S. who are in legal limbo: No one is seriously contemplating they leave, but conservatives believe normalizing their status should be dependent on border security first.
Any immigration reform must expand legal immigration and the work visa program, so we don't find another 12 million undocumented workers here a decade from now. The Gang of Eight bill actually decreases the number of agricultural workers visas. If work visas are less than what the market demands, the workers will come illegally and we're right back where we started.
Earlier this month, I introduced an amendment to the current legislation known as the "Trust But Verify Act," which would make immigration reform contingent upon Congress writing strong border security plan, Congressional votes on border security every year for five years, completion of a double-layered border fence, two new national security visa screening programs and protection against the Obama Administration forcing American citizens to carry around a biometric national identification card. My amendment ensured that Congress, and not the usual unaccountable government agencies, would verify that the border was secure.
My amendment was voted down 37-61 using a procedural vote, with seven Republicans joining Democrats to vote down the strongest border security amendment offered on the bill.
This week, the Senate is being asked to move forward on the current plan, which now includes the Hoeven-Corker complete substitute amendment. Over the weekend, the massive amendment consisted of an e-mail to my office containing five separate PDF files with five different titles. The final amendment has since been entered into the Congressional Record, a hard copy of which was delivered to Senate Members Monday morning.
The complete text of this legislation amounts to 1,100 pages, and the Senate was then asked to vote on an 1,100 page amendment the same day we received it!
So, the Senate was being asked to vote on a crucially flawed bill that no one had read and that no one has had time to read.
Welcome to Washington.
As for the parts that some have read, this legislation includes a $1.5 billion jobs bill. What, exactly, does a jobs bill have to do with immigration reform?
Ironically, $1.5 billion is the same amount they promised to spend on a border fence. The Hoeven-Corker amendment now gives the DHS Secretary the option of not completing the fence, if she determines the border to be secure without any new fence.
Part of the current bill makes it easier for convicted criminals gain legal status-gang members, drunk drivers, and sex offenders, to give a few examples.
Perhaps the worst part of this legislation is that it doesn't even attempt to fix the existing system. It doesn't address our current refugee policy, student visa system, or how to track visitors still in the country because of visa overstays-an issue with significant national security implications.
If we had a more competent visa program, we might've prevented 9/11. If we had more thorough screening of refugees, we might've prevented the Boston bombing.
I filed two other amendments to the current bill that would've dramatically improved it. The first, would have prevented non-citizens in the US on work visas from receiving welfare benefits. The amendment was defeated.
The second, titled the "No New Pathway to Citizenship Act" would've replaced the new "Registered Provisional Immigrant" status in the current legislation with a means for people to apply for work visas in existing work programs. My amendment would have essentially removed the Gang of Eight bill's caps on these work visa programs and eliminated the prevailing wage requirements that render work visas destined to fail.
It is the inability of so many people coming here to obtain work visas that has always been a primary driver of illegal immigration. I simply introduced an amendment that would've finally made our worker visa program... work.
Senate Democrats prevented a vote on my amendment to expand work visas.
The authors of the current bill gloss over these core immigration issues by saying they will simply put more people on the border. This is like using a Band-Aid to cure a cold, and further shows Washington's ignorance of the deep systematic flaws that have contributed to our immigration dilemma.
It is now up to the House to champion real immigration reform. If we're going to fix our broken borders and have an overhaul of the system verifiable by Congress, the House will have to lead the way.
The Senate version has simply failed to address our immigration problem in any competent way.
A Rasmussen poll released Monday indicated that only 28 percent of Americans believe the federal government will secure the border if the current immigration bill passes.
I'm surprised the number is so high. Washington parlor tricks disguised as reform will not fool the American people.
Without some congressional authority and without border security first, I cannot and will not support this bill.