By Representative Scott Perry
In the last several weeks, hundreds of constituents have contacted my office as the United States Senate debated a comprehensive reform of our Nation's immigration laws. While most of the constituents who reached out to me opposed that legislation, it passed the Senate in late June by a 68-32 margin. This national debate will continue in the coming months in the U.S. House and I encourage your continued feedback.
I wouldn't have voted for the Senate bill, which needed stronger and more targeted border enforcement measures and also contained special giveaways designed to garner votes, such as a provision added by Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado to hire more foreign ski and snowboard instructors to cater to the growing numbers of international tourists hitting the slopes in Colorado and other states.
Congress should have learned from the recent health care experience that trying to reform such a large, complicated issue in one massive 1,200-plus page bill doesn't work. Nearly everyone connected to the health care field today will tell you that the implementation of ObamaCare is shaping up to be a mess; in fact, President Obama already signed seven bills that repeal parts of his own health care law.
Similarly, the Senate's one-size-fits all approach to immigration will not work. The House will not make that same mistake. House Speaker John Boehner has said that the House will not take up the Senate bill, but rather will consider several smaller bills, to be debated openly, to make more focused and efficient reforms to our immigration laws.
The first step in any reform process must be to secure our borders, period. Significant progress must be made on this issue before we take any further steps. No legislation will pass the House until that's done.
Currently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has no metrics to properly understand the security of our borders. DHS must be forced to establish realistic metrics while using readily-available technology that provide transparency and allow us to properly address areas of concern across our southern border. More than half of the illegal entries, along with most of the illegal drug and human trafficking, take place in a handful of southern border sectors. The U.S. Border Patrol is limited in what it can do in these sectors because they're on federally designated lands with wilderness or conservation status. That the Border patrol is limited by federal law on federal land from performing the federal function of securing the border is ridiculous -- and must change.
I've advocated for legislation in the House Homeland Security Committee to push DHS to gain operational control of our border. Once our border security concerns are met, we can turn our attention to the current immigration system - which clearly is broken.
Dozens of businesses and families in my district have described to me an immigration system that's outdated, incredibly inefficient and stifles economic growth by drowning businesses with regulations. It promotes illegal immigration by forcing those who want to come to the United States legally to confront a bloated and entrenched bureaucracy that's almost impossible to navigate.
I do not support amnesty; it's blatantly unfair to the millions of individuals and families who waited, often for many years, to come here legally. I'll work toward a new legal immigration system that: establishes verifiable enforcement measures that ensure visitors leave our country when they're supposed to; provides our agricultural industries with the workers they need; requires immigrants to understand and speak basic English; and revises Visa programs to attract and keep more entrepreneurs, investors and highly skilled workers in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Finally, much has been written about how immigration reform is "good politics" for Members of Congress, specifically Republicans, given that Republicans received only 27% of Hispanic votes in the November 2012 elections. That kind of cynical, political pandering is part of the reason why Congress' approval ratings mirror that of third-world dictators. I'm confident that most Americans, including our Hispanic and Latino citizens, believe we need immigration policies that honor our heritage as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. Let's get the policy right first, regardless of what's politically expedient, and the American people will decide the politics for us.