I believe our immigration system is broken. I support legal immigration, but we cannot continue to overlook the problems associated with illegal immigration, including the strain it places our nation’s financial resources. The federal government must secure our borders, address illegal immigrants already living in America, and reform the process of becoming a legal immigrant.
President Obama selectively enforced our laws or made changes to immigration law through executive actions for far too long, which has prevented us from finding a path forward that fixes our broken immigration system. In the 113th Congress, I opposed the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform. I believe we should look instead at some commonsense steps that will improve our immigration system. For instance, we should ensure our farms continue to have the workers they need to put food on our tables, we should expand E-Verify to give businesses the tools they need to comply with the law, and we should give priority to immigrants based on the skills they will provide to our country instead of meeting a geographic quota.
As a member of the Immigration Reform Caucus, I do not think we should reward those who illegally reside in America, and I reject efforts to provide amnesty to these individuals. I am also adamantly opposed to providing federal benefits to illegal aliens.
In November of 2014, President Obama took an unprecedented step in halting the deportation of millions of immigrants illegally residing in the United States. This executive order is a slap in the face to every American citizen who is struggling to find work. I was proud to support H.Res. 639, Speaker Ryan’s resolution to lend the House of Representatives’ support to a court case filed by 26 of our states aimed at stopping the implementation of the president’s actions to the Deferred Action for parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. The resolution passed by a vote of 234 to 186 on March 17, 2016, and I was pleased this case ended in a Supreme Court decision with a 4-4 tie, leaving in place a lower court ruling effectively blocking the president’s plan.
In recent years, our southern states have experienced a surge of immigrants crossing the border illegally – mostly children – that threaten to overwhelm local services and resources. We must address the heart of the crisis, which is that immigrants are making a dangerous journey, risking their lives because of a mistaken belief they will be allowed to stay and ultimately be granted citizenship. The most compassionate, humane solution we can adopt ensures immigrants are returned quickly and safely to their families.
To further address this issue, I proudly introduced H.R. 5881, the Unaccompanied Alien Children Placement Transparency Act. This legislation would require the Departments of Health and Human Service (HHS) and Homeland Security (DHS) to provide governors or the appropriate state-level official with certain information about Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) being placed within their states. It is unacceptable the placement of these minors occurred without prior notification to governors and relevant state officials, and my bill would simply require the Obama administration to provide basic but necessary information about the unaccompanied children being placed with sponsors in Tennessee.
As the threat posed by ISIS continues to grow, we must make every effort to keep Americans safe and prevent groups like ISIS from exploiting our country’s generosity by targeting our country’s laws. After ISIS perpetrated the November 2015 attacks in Paris, France, it became clear that the group was embedding terrorists in the groups of refugees fleeing Syria. This is why, on November 19, 2015, I voted in support of H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act. The SAFE Act pauses the admission of refugees from Iraq and Syria, and requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to ensure that background checks are thorough enough to determine a refugee is not a threat to the United States. If the FBI cannot certify the background check, the refugee will not be admitted to the U.S.
In addition, I am also a proud cosponsor of H.R. 3314, the Resettlement Accountability National Security Act. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Brian Babin (TX), places a moratorium on all refugee resettlement programs until the Government Accounting Office (GAO) has the opportunity to complete a thorough study on the costs of these programs to federal, state, and local governments. This legislation would offer us the time to review the national security risks of these programs and ensure American safety at home.
On December 8, 2015, I was also pleased to support H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, which passed the House. This legislation, which was ultimately signed into law, addresses a shortcoming of the Visa Waiver Program that was exploited by the perpetrators of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, which allows citizens of certain counties to more easily travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days. Under the new law, participating countries will be required to provide counterterrorism information and other intelligence, identifying and allowing for the suspension of high-risk countries and denying Visa Waiver Program status for those who have traveled to terrorist hotspots since 2011.
On July 23, 2015, I was proud to support H.R. 3009, the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act. This bill, introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), cuts off specific federal law enforcement grants for jurisdictions that have policies in place that prohibit or restrict communication with the Department of Homeland Security regarding an individual’s citizenship or immigration status. While we can and need to do more to address this refusal to enforce the law, this bill was an important first step to end sanctuary cities and send a clear message that immigration reform must begin with a commitment to the rule of law. If we are willing to allow cities to decide for themselves whether they will abide by our immigration laws, how can anyone trust that laws meant to secure our borders will be effectively enforced?