Congressman Beto O'Rourke (TX-16) released the following statement today after the Senate "Gang of Eight" introduced their proposal for comprehensive immigration reform:
"The Senate plan is a tremendous step toward fixing our broken immigration system and strengthening El Paso. For the first time in over three decades, Congress has the opportunity to pass a serious comprehensive immigration reform bill. It has the support of a broad coalition of leaders, including members of both parties and business, labor, and immigration advocacy groups. It goes a long way in addressing critical concerns- it creates a path to citizenship for immigrants that pay their taxes, obey our laws and learn English. It also helps reunite broken families, gives young DREAMers an opportunity to pursue their goals and directs resources towards securing our border," said Congressman O'Rourke.
"The bill is not perfect and it is important to realize that it is a starting point. I am concerned about the length and difficulty of obtaining citizenship. Thirteen years is a long time for hardworking individuals who have contributed to our society for, in some cases, decades. I am also troubled that the bill would reduce the number of some family-based visas.
The path to citizenship is dependent on meeting strict new border security metrics. It gives the Department of Homeland Security billions of dollars for surveillance and security along our border, including funding to purchase drone and surveillance technology. While I understand that we have to protect our country against threats of terrorism, drug violence, and smuggling, these measures threaten to further militarize our border at the expense of our economic security. I hope the final product will recognize the great economic opportunities represented by cross border trade and allocate resources accordingly.
As a bi-national community and one of the safest cities in the country, El Pasoans have seen first-hand the benefits that can be reaped from the safe and efficient movement of people and goods with our neighbors to the South. Trade and cross-border activity with Mexico generates more than 100,000 jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity in our region. Our border is the safest it has ever been. The number of border agents on the U.S/Mexico border has more than doubled since 9/11 and we have experienced record deportations and apprehensions. We should not predicate needed reforms on unrealistic security measures.
El Paso will be uniquely impacted by whatever bill Congress passes and I am committed to making sure our voice is heard in this debate. Our community has long dealt with the consequences of both long wait times at our ports and immigration laws that break up families and ignore economic conditions. I look forward to reviewing the entire bill more in depth, but it is a great first step to fixing our broken immigration system. I hope that Congress rises to the challenge and makes this the year we pass comprehensive immigration reform."