Should Congress go slow on immigration reform, or pass a comprehensive bill?
Take the time to methodically craft immigration legislation
By Bob Goodlatte
Nearly everyone agrees that we need to fix our nation’s broken immigration system. The way for Congress to remedy this problem is to methodically look at each of the various components that need to be fixed and take any final bill through the traditional legislative process. Immigration reform is too important and complex to not examine each piece in detail.
By taking our time, Congress is able to reflect on past legislative mistakes and avoid making similar ones in the future. For example, nearly 30 years ago Congress passed and President Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, assuring the American people that it would fix our immigration system. We were promised tougher enforcement in exchange for the legalization of roughly 3 million people. But these promises were never kept and our immigration laws remain broken.
The failed attempt to pass a massive immigration bill in 2007 also points to the need for a step-by-step approach under the normal legislative process of hearings, markups and a final vote. The authors of this bill took a top-down approach rather than starting from the ground up and examining each individual component. Consequently, once hidden details and unintended consequences of the bill came to light, the American people largely opposed it, and the bill failed. The American people want to know how Congress plans to avoid these similar outcomes this time.
Both the House and the Senate recognize the importance of reforming our nation’s immigration system, and that is why both chambers are actively pursuing a solution to this issue.
While it’s true that many in the House, including myself, are concerned that the Senate’s nearly 900-page bill repeats some of the same mistakes of the past, we’re hopeful that we can produce better solutions.
The House Judiciary Committee, which I chair, has held numerous hearings on our immigration laws, and we have already introduced several stand-alone bills that address particular issues within our immigration system. We plan to build upon this work to build consensus on these important issues in the weeks and months ahead. This process of regular order allows every representative to fully vet the issues and provides the opportunity to have the voices of the 6th Congressional District and folks across the nation heard.
Immigration reform is not an easy task, yet a solution is not out of reach. By taking a methodical approach to these issues, it will help us craft better legislation that will benefit Americans and provide a workable immigration system. This will ensure we get immigration reform right this time so that we don’t have the same problems in the future.
Goodlatte represents Virginia’s 6th Congressional District and is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Comprehensive reform will resolve substantial problems
Our nation’s broken immigration system is a drag on the economy and a barrier to innovation. Fixing this fragmented, unfair system has been a priority for me.
I was one of the first governors of Virginia to work closely with immigrant communities around the commonwealth. I believed then, as I do now, that immigrants continue to embody the American Dream as they have since the founding of our nation. Today, these communities wield more than $33 billion in combined consumer purchasing power, and immigrant-owned businesses employ an estimated 126,000 Virginians.
Over the past several months, a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators known as the Gang of Eight has worked to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill. I am proud to support this compromise approach to reform.
We now have a unique opportunity to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package that protects American workers, improves border enforcement, establishes a more effective identity verification process and provides a reasonable pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who already live and work in America. These reforms should be no-brainers.
This legislation includes key priorities I have championed in the Senate, including the creation of a new “STEM” visa for high-skilled graduates of American universities. The U.S. will need approximately 1 million more STEM professionals than we’re producing on our own at current rates. Failure to adequately meet this demand could put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage for years.
The bipartisan Senate proposal also makes sensible reforms to the H1-B program often utilized by tech companies.
But to only resolve issues with high-skill immigration is not enough. Our economy is diverse, and it relies on different types of skills and jobs. We need a comprehensive policy approach in order to enact reasonable reforms for agricultural workers, for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here, and for the millions of children called Dreamers who have only ever known the U.S. as home.
If we only address border security or high-skill immigration reform, we’re missing the opportunity to get at the underlying issues that created our current challenges.
It is estimated that 40 percent of illegal immigration can be tied to visa overstays by people who legally immigrated to the U.S. Right now, we don’t have a way to deal with this problem. We also have very limited means of helping employers verify that they are hiring legally authorized workers. These are major issues we can only resolve through comprehensive reform.
We have always struggled with, debated and then resolved America’s challenges around immigration. It is my hope that Congress will follow that tradition and enact comprehensive immigration reform this year.
Warner is a United States senator from Virginia.