Congressman Rooney on immigration reform and Securing our Borders
Thoughtful and earnest debate is a necessary precondition to the success of our American system of government. In our Republic, it is rare that one side gets 100 percent of what they want. As Ronald Regan famously stated, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”
As is often said in legislative negotiating, we can’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. This was certainly the case with our recent tax reform success. Solving the immigration crisis facing our nation will be another test of legislative will. Securing our borders, fixing our broken visa system and ending immigration abuses like chain migration and the diversity lottery are potential benefits to justify extending the DACA program, as President Trump has suggested.
There are those who say that we must fully fund a border wall, and immediately deport all illegal immigrants, regardless of circumstance. On the other end of the spectrum, many believe in full amnesty and citizenship for all illegal immigrants in our country right now, and want to continue open ended chain migration. Any bill brought forward will require sixty votes in the Senate, so a proposal from either end of the spectrum described above would be dead on arrival. Accordingly, what might a responsible and realistic plan that would pass the Senate look like?
First, we must begin with securing our borders. You aren’t much of a sovereign if you can’t control who enters or leaves your territory. We must assure that no additional illegal immigrants are entering our country. A significant component in securing our borders is fixing our broken and leaking visa system. Almost half of all illegal immigrants in the U.S. at this time came here legally and later overstayed their visas. As to family migration, the idea that spouses and minor children might accompany a new entrant seems like a reasonable narrowing of
the abusive chain migration.
Any additional avenues for immigration should be strictly skill-based. We certainly need to end the diversity lottery, which is the polar opposite of skill-based immigration, to assure that the best and brightest enter our country. Of course, if we extend the DACA program to get these important immigration and visa reforms, we should immediately deport those with criminal records. Instead of a path to citizenship now, I would suggest a framework that allows for permanent legal resident status provided they learn English, pay any back taxes and meet work or education requirements.
This permanent status would be revocable for criminal violations and the recipients of this status could follow the same guidelines as all other immigrants wishing to become citizens, provided they are not placed ahead of the legal immigrants who have already applied for citizenship.
It is time to be realistic and stop talking past each other on this issue. Congress should properly fund the government on February 8th without attaching non-related issues -then use the above outline to enact the immigration fixes that have alluded us for a generation.
Francis Rooney is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district.
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