Weekly Columns

My Principles for Immigration Reform

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Washington, December 10, 2014 | Tiffany Haverly (202-226-8072) | comments

On Tuesday, President Obama visited Nashville to discuss his administration’s recent actions on immigration. Tennesseans are keenly aware of the need to reform our nation’s immigration system, as an estimated 124,000 illegal immigrants are believed to be living in our state. The president’s speech, unfortunately, was more of the same partisan rhetoric we’ve been hearing since he took office. I believe we can reform our broken immigration system, but there must be key principles included in any reform package before I can support it.

First, we absolutely must secure our border. I believe border security should be verified by the governors of border states, not the White House or the Department of Homeland Security. We must know exactly who is coming in and out of this country. The White House touts a decrease in border apprehensions, but the fact that 340,000 individuals were caught trying to cross the border illegally in fiscal year 2011 shows we still have work to do. If we don’t secure the border, our children and grandchildren will be faced to address this same problem again in 30 years.

Second, we must closely track those that legally come into this country for temporary stays. It is estimated that roughly 40 percent of illegal immigrants residing in this country come here legally and then overstay their visas. It is imperative we have a tracking system to make sure that, once a person’s legal status expires, they are forced to renew their visas or leave the country immediately. An enforcement mechanism for visas is a must be included to win my support for any legislation.

Third, we should ensure that special consideration is given to agriculture workers. One of the concerns I hear most often from our farmers is that they cannot find enough guest workers to help with their crops. We should implement a system that’s workable for farmers and protects the American worker from unfair competition from those without legal status.

Fourth, we should find ways to permit highly-educated immigrants—particularly those in STEM fields—to remain in this country after they complete their education. We shouldn’t educate these individuals and then send them home if they have a desire to stay in the United States. We should make it easier for these highly-skilled individuals to stay in this country—where they can help create jobs and drive economic growth—if they so choose.  

Finally, we’ll need to address the 11 million people who live in this country illegally. As I’ve said before, I am adamantly opposed to rewarding those who come to or reside in this country illegally with citizenship. With that said, it’s not realistic to think we can deport 11 million people. Anyone who has broken our laws should be punished in a reasonable way and sent to the back of the line, period. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I will not support any measure that includes amnesty.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s executive action does nothing to address these issues for the long-term. Not only has he turned his back on every naturalized citizen that waited in line to live in this country, he has also poisoned the well for meaningful, bipartisan immigration reform. I strongly believe it is unacceptable and unconstitutional for the president to bypass Congress on this issue, and I will continue to fight against these executive actions while pushing for principled immigration reform that will secure our borders, protect American workers and ensure we know exactly who comes in and out of this country.

Feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family. 
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